Louisville 67. UNC 35. Twelve minutes left to play.
The North Carolina women’s basketball team was down 32 points on Thursday, its largest deficit of the season. Not to mention it was against No. 1 Louisville, a team touted for its dynamic offense and undefeated with 15 wins.
With less than a third of the game left, the Tar Heels were in a hole. But just when any other team could have given up, graduate transfer Petra Holešínská had a simple message for her teammates:
"Win this quarter."
By the final buzzer, North Carolina had lost the game. But the final score was 79-68, only an 11-point gap. In just 12 minutes, the Tar Heels had managed to dominate the best team in the nation on both sides of the ball and make up for 21 of their 32-point difference. And at the head of it all was Holešínská.
Holešínská, a gifted shooting guard, hails from Vracov in the Czech Republic. She won three Czech national championships with her club team, BK Brno, before attending the University of Illinois, where she became an immediate starter for the Illini. Holešínská joined North Carolina this season as a graduate transfer.
Though Holešínská started the game on the bench, she displayed not only her veteran leadership, but her shooting ability near and outside the perimeter early in the bout. She set a career high for the UNC portion of her playing days with 26 points in the game.
“At that point it was like, 'We might win the game, we might lose the game,' but we just have to focus on the team and on making it better,” Holešínská said.
Head coach Courtney Banghart, in her second year as head coach of the Tar Heels, noted the dominance of Louisville’s offense and UNC’s persistent drive throughout the game.
“I just really like who this team is becoming — there just is no quit in this group,” Banghart said. “Honestly, it was not that we played poorly, it was that they just really shot lights out to start the game. It was something that very rarely happens in a season, and I’m sure he’s (Louisville head coach Jeff Walz) going to wish he could do that again sometime soon, but it’s just something that doesn’t happen very often."
"Our guys just kind of took the punch, and then we started punching back,” she added.
Even with the loss, the Tar Heels are looking to continue riding the momentum and confidence they built toward the end of the Louisville game as the season begins its final stretch.
“(The loss to Louisville) is just another great experience for them as we go on the road and play a very good Virginia Tech team, who just beat No. 2 N.C. State,” Banghart said.
While teams do not usually relish a loss, especially one against an in-conference team, it is difficult to not be pleased with the performance and fight shown by the Tar Heels.
And the same can be said for Holešínská. In just her first season on the team, she has proven to be one of the Tar Heels' deadliest scorers, while also inspiring her teammates to play their best, even when the chips are down.
To Holešínská, it's all growth from here.
“This is a game that we can definitely build on," Holešínská said. "We have a really important stretch ahead of us, so we can just watch film and get better."
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