Current Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2014 10:32:49 -0500
It was a simple desire she had held onto from her hospital bed, made public through her Twitter account about two and a half hours before the North Carolina women’s basketball team tipped off Wednesday night.
Coach Sylvia Hatchell had been looking forward to it all day.
“Hello all you Tar Heel fans,” her tweet read.
“I cannot wait to watch a live stream/video of my (team) in action tonight at 6 p.m. as they take on Carson-Newman.”
Hatchell, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, was unable to attend UNC’s opening exhibition game. But with her team’s 111-50 drubbing of Carson-Newman to cherish, associate head coach Andrew Calder said he knew Hatchell would be proud — regardless of where she was.
“I understand she shaved her head right before the game and put ‘Go Tar Heels’ on it,” he said.
The Eagles honored Hatchell, an alumna of Carson-Newman, donning warm-up T-shirts that read “Hoops 4 Hatchell” on the front and “Our coach, family and friend” on the back.
But once the jump ball was tossed, The Tar Heels quickly took command of the contest.
UNC trailed only once, 51 seconds into the game, and took a permanent lead 21 seconds later.
“I thought we did a good job pushing the basketball, finding open players,” Calder said.
“I thought we did a good job sharing the basketball — a lot of plus-one passes.”
Six Tar Heels — Xylina McDaniel, Stephanie Mavunga, Diamond DeShields, Brittany Rountree, Megan Buckland and Allisha Gray all tallied double-digit points, with Mavunga leading all scorers with 18. She also pulled down 14 rebounds.
“It was indescribable,” the freshman said of her debut.
“I was really nervous at first to begin with, but my teammates are really supportive of me … and they kind of made it easy to calm down and get into the flow of things.”
UNC entered the second half with a 64-27 lead.
McDaniel, the team’s second-highest scorer with 16 points, credited her individual performance to maturity.
“I’ve grown tremendously,” she said.
“I am getting more consistent with my shot. I’ve been working on it … and my ball handling, so I’ll be able to not stay around the basket as much and play around the three-point line.”
But more than anything, she said the team won for Hatchell — the leader it so dearly misses.
“Every win that we get without her, without her being here physically is going to be great for us,” McDaniel said.
“Every single one — not just the first, (not just) the last. Every one.”