As the shots kept falling for the Tar Heels, Georgia Tech’s lead shrunk. Thanks to 12 first-half points from redshirt sophomore guard Paris Kea and 10 from first-year guard Taylor Koenig, North Carolina trimmed the deficit to 46-42.
UNC took its first lead of the game, 50-49, with 6:38 to go in the third quarter on two Kea free throws, but Georgia Tech entered the fourth quarter with a 71-67 advantage.
With 2:04 left on the clock Kea hit a turnaround jump shot in the post to tie the game at 83. After five free throws for the Yellow Jackets and a 3-point shot for North Carolina, Georgia Tech held a two-point lead with six seconds remaining. With six seconds left, Cherry calmly caught the inbound pass and took a couple dribbles before pulling up. Despite shooting from practically the half-court logo, Cherry’s shot found nothing but net. The Yellow Jackets were unable to get a shot off in the final seconds as UNC held on for a 89-88 victory.
Who stood out?
Cherry did more than just hit the game-winning shot for the Tar Heels — she set the tone for the team throughout the entire game. Her swagger defined North Carolina’s play on the court. The junior played every minute of the game and scored 26 points on 7-of-15 shooting — including 6-of-9 from deep — and willed her team in the second half to a comeback victory.
When was it decided?
With 16 seconds left and her team trailing by one, Cherry took what would have been the go-ahead shot when she pulled up from the free throw line. The shot clanked off the rim and Georgia Tech collected the rebound and called a timeout.
Cherry was devastated. But when she got another chance at the one that really counted, she didn’t miss. After Georgia Tech made one free throw, Cherry sank the game winner to seal the deal.
Why does it matter?
After suffering consecutive losses to Boston College and Syracuse in which slow starts doomed them, the Tar Heels finally overcame an early deficit. Head coach Sylvia Hatchell sees this type of experience as invaluable for her young team as it continues to grow and learn. And a buzzer-beating win might be just what North Carolina needs with the ACC Tournament in the near future.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will travel to Louisville, Ky. to take on the Cardinals on Sunday.