For a team defined by its youth, Cherry — the only healthy upperclassman — stepped up time and time again for the Tar Heels on Thursday.
UNC trailed Georgia Tech (14-12, 3-10 ACC) by 14 with under a minute remaining in the first quarter before Cherry drilled 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, cutting the deficit to 8 points and giving the Tar Heels hope.
On the other side of the break, Cherry stayed hot — hitting another three to draw UNC within five, its closest deficit since the game’s opening minutes.
“She’s just all over the place,” sophomore guard Stephanie Watts said. “She’s a really vocal leader, she leads by example, leads by talking to us — keeping us in the game. She’s really helpful and inspirational to us.”
Cherry continued her scoring in the second half, repeatedly bringing the Tar Heels within striking distance with a combination of drives, drawn fouls and, of course, her jumper.
With 16 seconds left and Georgia Tech leading by a point, Cherry found herself open at the free-throw line. Her shot fell off the back iron into the waiting arms of Georgia Tech’s Zaire O’Neil.
“I felt like I should have hit that 15-footer because I was wide open,” Cherry said. “My teammates just told me to not hang my head — I’d get it back.”
Hatchell never lost faith, either. She said Cherry and her teammates practice their long-range shots before and after every practice.
“That’s not a fluke because they shoot these all the time,” she said. “And they make them. There’s a reason why I call her ‘Cherry Bomb.’”
Cherry has made her name with long-range bombs in late-game situations.
As a first-year in 2015, the then-backup guard hit a game-winning jumper just inside the arc to beat Ohio State and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Cherry hit a game-tying 3-pointer in the final second to send her team to overtime in an ACC Tournament loss to Pittsburgh.
Thursday was no different.
The play Hatchell drew up during the timeout included passing options. But when asked whether she had any plans to give up the ball, Cherry answered with a confident smile.
“No,” she said. “I was gonna hit it.”
And she did.