First-year Janelle Bailey led the way for her team, as North Carolina women’s basketball (13-5, 3-2 ACC) battled to a hard-fought 79-76 overtime victory against Wake Forest (10-9, 3-3 ACC) on Sunday afternoon in Winston-Salem.
UNC entered the game riding high after back-to-back ACC wins over Pitt and Clemson, respectively, and that momentum continued as it got off to a hot start. Bailey put up eight points in the first five minutes of game time, and the Tar Heels jumped out to a quick 16-11 lead midway through the first quarter.
Wake Forest, however, showed early on that they weren’t going to go quietly. Led by sophomore guard Alex Sharp, the Demon Deacons stormed back with 11 unanswered points in the last three minutes of the first quarter to take a 22-16 lead into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, UNC’s defense stepped up, holding Wake Forest to just five points. Bailey continued to put in work, adding four more points to her tally, while Jamie Cherry put up five to give the Tar Heels a 32-27 lead on the brink of halftime. It looked like it would end that way, but Elisa Penna drained a late three-pointer for the Deacons to cut UNC’s lead to 32-30 at the half.
The back and forth nature of the game continued in the second half, with Wake Forest coming out firing to start the third quarter. Ariel Stephenson put up eight points in the first six minutes of the period as the Deacons built themselves a 44-37 lead, but once again, UNC had an answer. The Tar Heels ended the quarter on an 11-2 run to send the game into the final frame with the score tied 48-48.
UNC started to take control of the game in the fourth quarter and four consecutive unanswered layups gave the team a five-point lead. Bailey continued to excel on offense, putting up ten more points in the final period to bring her total to 27 for the game.
With just over three minutes left, the Tar Heels held a seven point lead and looked to be well on their way to securing a third consecutive victory, but the Demon Deacons had other ideas. Elisa Penna hit some clutch free throws with 45 seconds remaining made it a one-point game. After Jamie Cherry made one of two free throws at the other end for UNC, Wake Forest guard Amber Campbell came back down the court and laid it in to send the game to overtime.
Right when it looked like UNC might never be able to close out the game, Cherry stepped up, making all six of her free throws in overtime. Paris Kea also delivered for the Tar Heels, nailing a clutch three-pointer with 1:25 left on the clock to make it a two-possession game. In the end, UNC was able to hang on for its third straight ACC victory.