WINSTON-SALEM — Cierra Robertson-Warren was the first one down the court.
The UNC freshman stood on the free-throw line with her hands on her knees and waited for the other nine players to take their places. And then she iced the game.
Her defensive rebound and ensuing free throw gave the Tar Heels a four-point lead with nine seconds to go in overtime.
It was enough to earn a hug from fellow freshman Waltiea Rolle at midcourt and the first UNC win in three weeks, a 65-59 nail-biter at Wake Forest.
In that moment at the free-throw line, with the weight of the team’s five-game losing streak on her shoulders, Warren kept her thoughts focused.
“I better make it,” Warren said. “I kept thinking, ‘God, put it in.’”
Warren contributed five of the Tar Heels’ nine points in overtime and 11 points total. She played a career-high 23 minutes and was only one rebound shy of a double-double.
“I was yelling at everybody else for not finishing,” she said. “So I was thinking if I’m going to be a leader, then I had better show by example.”
Warren seemed to get better as the game went on. Her halftime stats were unimpressive. Two minutes, zero points, one rebound.
North Carolina adjusted for the last 25 minutes, though. UNC eventually outscored Wake Forest by a 34-22 margin in the paint.
“We were able to get the post player to the backside, and that’s how we got the ball in there,” UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said.
Warren took advantage of this new offensive look to come alive after the break. And then again after the second break.
On UNC’s first possession of overtime, Warren collected the ball. She calmly backed in, dipped her shoulder one way, spun the other, and sank a jumper.
Two possessions later, she was at it again. This time she banked home a runner moving to her right.
She finished 4-for-7 from the field and 3-for-4 from the free-throw line.
Defensively, Warren stepped up late as well. Nearing the end of regulation, the Tar Heels were in desperate need of a stop, and it was the 6-foot-4 freshman who came up with two blocks in one possession.
“Cierra went in there and did a really nice job for us,” Hatchell said.
Contact the Sports Editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.