As Mavunga’s teammates jumped from the bench to mob her and celebrate, the referees checked to see if Mavunga’s shot had left her hand before the buzzer. There was no doubt in her teammate’s mind, though.
“When they went to review the play, I already knew it was going in,” senior Brittany Rountree said.
Mavunga’s shot gave Rountree exactly what she wanted on her Senior Night — a win.
“I just didn’t want to lose on Senior Night and neither did anyone else,” Rountree said. “Just winning for my team was set in stone for me.”
It wasn’t all smiles on Senior Night though, as the Tar Heels struggled at the beginning of the game, falling behind Virginia (16-12, 6-9 ACC) by as many as 12 points with 11 minutes and 52 seconds remaining in the first half.
“I’ve been doing this what, 40 years?” Coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “This is pretty typical for Senior Night. It happens almost every time. The first few minutes — especially if you have a lot of seniors like we did — people are caught up in the emotions and all that, but we had to sort of settle down.”
It took an early timeout to calm the players.
“I said, ‘Look, I told you they were going to come out ready to play. The game has started. Senior Night is over. We need to step it up here,’” Hatchell said. “I didn’t chew them out, I just tried to get them to get things picked up a little bit.”
The Tar Heels responded with a 15-0 run starting a minute after UVa.’s 12-point lead.
But on a night when Mavunga was the hero, it was the senior who earned the coach’s praise.
Rountree stopped guarding UVa.’s highest scorer on the night, Faith Randolph, due to foul trouble, but with the game on the line, she wanted the tough assignment.
Hatchell let Rountree faceguard Randolph, just like the senior wanted. It went exactly as Rountree planned.
“We put (Rountree) on (Randolph) and facegaurded her and didn’t let her get the ball,” Hatchell said. “That was major. That was as big as (Mavunga’s shot). I want to give credit where credit is due.”