by Mike Potter
GREENSBORO COLISEUM It's the final game of the second four-game day at the ACC Women's Basketball Tournament, and this promises to be a good one.
No. 24 Virginia (21-8) is definitely headed for the NCAA Tournament in a couple of weeks, while N.C. State (18-12) seems to be in the "probable" category.
Unfortunately with the way the schedule goes in the 12-team conference they ran into each other only once this season, and the result was a 73-60 Cavalier win in Charlottesville on Jan. 27.
And there will be at least one really interesting personnel matchup. Virginia boasts senior Monica Wright, who was the ACC player of the year, and the Wolfpack has high-energy Marissa Kastanek (pictured), the conference's rookie of the year.
Kastanek's team comes out the winner in a loud battle, as the Wolfpack survives 66-59.
Virginia comes out hotter in the early going, taking a 15-8 advantage on a Wright jumper with 14:00 left in the first half. But the Wolfpack pulls together and makes a run, taking its first lead on an Amber White three-point play with 6:10 left in the half.
State is up 27-24 at the break following Kastanek's 3-pointer that beats the buzzer. Wright has 10 points and three fouls at halftime after playing just 10 minutes.
And she ignores the foul situation the rest of the way.
State never trails in the second half, taking its biggest lead at 49-35 on a Kastanek 3-pointer with 11:39 to go.
But Wright hasn't finished. She trims the lead to 53-50 on a pair of free throws with 4:51 left.
The Wolfpack goes up 58-51 on a Nikitta Gartrell 3-pointer with 1:47 to go. Wright's layup at 1:05 cuts it to 59-55.
Bonae Holston misses a pair of free throws with 55 seconds to go but Kastanek adds two 13 seconds later. Kastanek's two free throws with 22 seconds remaining make it 65-56 and the celebration starts.
Wright finishes with 32 points, but the Wolfpack counters with a balanced effort.
Kastanek finishes with 15 points, followed by Gartrell with 12, Brittany Strachan 11 and Holston 10.
State, which goes 9-for-20 from 3-point range, shoots 35.0 percent to Virginia's 33.9. The Wolfpack wins the rebound battle 47-37, overcoming 22 turnovers to the Cavaliers' 14.
They said it:
NCSU coach Kellie Harper: "I'm excited and happy for our team. This is huge win for us. Proud of how we played. For us it's not always pretty, but we grind it out. And you know, obviously Virginia is a very talented team and the Coach has done an amazing job with them this year. Monica Wright is stellar and fun to watch. So it's a very, very good win for our program."
Virginia coach Debbie Ryan: "The credit goes to NC State. They played very well today. I thought we had a good start. And we substituted and we didn't get enough from other players on the team. Monica Wright obviously got what we needed from her. I felt we didn't get it from all of the players that needed to step up and give us a little more and we didn't get enough of the players which would have made a difference in the game. But all credit goes to NC State. They played fabulous today."
Kastanek: "When we went to the locker room we were all really excited and we knew that (buzzer-beater) was going to take the momentum into the second half. And we kind of used that shot to propel us in the first couple of minutes knowing that we had to come out on fire."
Gartrell: "I wouldn't say (my 3-pointer) was a bad shot. But then I wouldn't say it was a good shot. Like the selection of it because the shot clock was, you know, winding down and it was a 3. I felt it, so I just shot it and, thank God it went in. But I mean, since it's my senior year. We have to leave it all or nothing, so I took the shot. And I'd rather me take it and miss it rather than a freshman take it and miss it. I have been in this situation before so I took it."
What does it all mean?
That the Wolfpack has probably removed all doubt about a berth in the NCAA Tournament, and that Harper still has a chance to leave a huge impression in her first ACC Tournament.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Gartrell's 3-pointer to make it 58-51 with 1:47 to go.
Virginia leads 35-31.
NCSU: Won 3.
Virginia: Lost 1.
N.C. State vs. Boston College, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.