N.C. State 66, No. 24 Virginia 59
North Carolina State keeps gaining confidence with every game,
even in the face of a second-half scoring barrage from the Atlantic
Coast Conference’s top player.
Freshman Marissa Kastanek scored 15 points to help N.C. State
hold off Monica Wright and No. 24 Virginia 66-59 in Friday’s ACC
tournament quarterfinals, sending the Wolfpack to the semifinals
for the first time since a surprise run to the final three years
Nikitta Gartrell added 12 points for the sixth-seeded Wolfpack
(19-12), who built a 14-point lead midway through the second half
then came up with enough plays to hang on for the victory.
N.C. State faces seventh-seeded Boston College – which upset No.
8 Florida State on Friday night – on Saturday in what has become an
extended tournament debut for first-year coach Kellie Harper.
N.C. State, which started 2-5 in the ACC this year, has won six
of seven and is now halfway to its first league tournament title
“I think our kids are confident right now,” Harper said.
“They’re confident with how we’re playing and what we’re trying to
do and I think they’re confident in each other. Their mentality,
their emotions, what they say in the huddles, it’s what you want to
Wright scored 22 of her 32 points in the final 12 minutes for
third-seeded Virginia (21-9), but she got little help. Her
teammates combined to shoot 9 for 36 (25 percent), leaving the
league player of the year to carry the burden alone.
“When the rest of the team was really not up to par, she tried
to will this team to win,” Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said.
“Usually one or two come with her. Tonight I didn’t feel like very
many were really on their games. It made it very difficult for her
to try to pull people through.”
She almost did it anyway. After going scoreless for 22 minutes
due mostly to foul trouble, Wright scored 17 straight points for
her team to help the third-seeded Cavaliers pull to 53-50 with 4:51
But N.C. State kept finding just enough offense to keep Wright
at bay, getting a stickback from Sharnise Beal – who is playing
through a knee injury that has her limping up and down the floor –
on the ensuing possession to push the margin back to five and get
A few minutes later, Gartrell knocked down a 3-pointer over
Lexie Gerson to push the margin to 58-51 with 1:45 left.
“I just felt it, so I just shot it,” she said. “I felt like,
it’s my senior year, so you have to leave it all out there. I’d
rather me take it and miss it than a freshman take it and miss
The Cavaliers made a final push to get back to within four on
Wright’s layup, but Kastanek knocked down two free throws to push
the lead back up to 61-55 with 42.9 seconds left. That was part of
N.C. State’s clinching 7 for 8 performance at the foul line in the
“We’ve had games like this where we dig ourselves a hole, and
we usually get out of it,” Wright said. “But this time, it just
seemed like the hole was too deep to try to work our way out
Wright got off to a fast start, scoring 10 of Virginia’s first
15 points. But she didn’t score again the rest of the half, sitting
a spell after picking up her second foul midway through the first
half before going back in and inexplicably picking up her third
foul by reaching in on rebounder Lucy Ellison.
As soon as the whistle blew, the red-clad Wolfpack fans in a
nearby section gave a loud cheer as Wright headed to the bench with
6:57 left in the half. Virginia didn’t manage much offense after
its star departed, getting just two field goals the rest of the
N.C. State took momentum to the locker room when Kastanek took a
feed and made a hurried 3-pointer from the left corner at the horn
for a 27-24 lead. The Wolfpack didn’t let up, getting 3s from
Kastanek and Brittany Strachan to push the margin to 46-33 before
Wright finally got her first basket since that opening flurry.
Even then, N.C. State pushed the ball upcourt and answered with
another 3 from Kastanek for its largest lead at 49-35 with 11:32