She had been taking them all afternoon — 21 shots, more than any of her teammates. But none were bigger than her final shot of regulation.
With 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Cherry catches the inbound pass and dishes it to guard Stephanie Watts — the shot rattles out.
But it’s not too late. A mad scramble leaves Destinee Walker with the ball as two Panthers converge. The first-year guard desperately flips it to her right as she falls to the court.
There’s Cherry, waiting patiently at the midcourt logo. This is her shot.
She reaches down to gather the pass. One second left. She hops forward, squares her feet and fires.
Nothing but net.
“Jamie being Jamie, just taking over the game,” Watts said of the final play. “She’s our point guard and our leader. When she took the shot, I just knew it was going in.”
This stage is nothing new. In the 2015 ACC Tournament, Cherry launched a 40-foot prayer to send her team to overtime. Two games later, she sank a running jumper from inside the 3-point line to beat Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s the norm,” Cherry said. “I practice it every day. It’s just second-nature to me.”
It had been the entire game.
Shot after shot, Cherry tries to carry her team. She spins through the lane for the game’s opening bucket and beats the first-quarter buzzer for three of her 18 points in the contest.
She leaps for offensive boards and dives into the passing lanes. The Panthers toss her to the ground — but she won’t stay down.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Cherry hobbles to midcourt and falls to the floor. She’s tweaked her knee, and her grimace says it all.
But the bench is no place for the sophomore leader, not for one minute. The Tar Heels can’t afford it.
“(Assistant coach) Sylvia Crawley said, ‘Coach, you need to get Jamie out. She’s hurt,’” Coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
“And I said, ‘Who are we going to put in?’”
There’s nobody left. Not like Cherry.
Overtime comes, and the season is slipping away. Cherry drives the lane, but her shot is smothered by the Pittsburgh defender. On the other end, she pokes the ball loose and tears down the court, her team trailing by five points.
But she can’t stay upright — not anymore. The ball flies out of bounds as Cherry hits the floor. She stays down, if only for a moment.
Nearly two minutes pass. It’s the final play of the game, and the ball is in her hands. She launches a 3-pointer, her seventh attempt of the game.
But it doesn’t matter. She’s too late.