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Jackets Fall to No. 3 NC State in Semifinals, 66-61

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Lorelaj Cubaj and Lotta-Maj Lahtinen each scored 17 points as Georgia Tech led third-ranked NC State into the final three minutes, but the Wolfpack rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to earn a 66-61 victory over the Yellow Jackets Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Tech (15-8), the No. 3 seed in the tournament, returns to Atlanta to await its post-season fate, while NC State (19-2) moves on to defend its ACC title Sunday at noon against top-seeded Louisville.

Elissa Cunane and Kai Crutchfield led the Wolfpack comeback in the fourth period, each scoring eight points as NC State erased a 53-43 deficit. Cunane gave the defending champs their first lead since the second period with a layup at the 2:25 mark, and she scored her team’s last eight points on a pair of layups and four free throws. She finished the game with 23 points and nine rebounds, hitting 8-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the foul line.

A pair of layups from Cubaj, the ACC’s co-defensive player of the year, led Tech over the final six minutes. The All-ACC senior’s bucket at 4:26 on the clock gave Tech a 59-56 lead, and she broke a scoring drought of more than four minutes with her final basket with 10 seconds remaining. Cubaj hit 8-of-18 shots from the floor, adding 11 rebounds for her 12th double-double this season.

Lahtinen scored 13 of her points in the first half in leading the Jackets to a 28-23 advantage. The all-conference senior hit 8-of-11 shots from the floor, grabbed four rebounds and had five assists. Kierra Fletcher, who led Tech with 21 points in the Jackets’ semifinal win over Clemson, added 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Four NC State players reached double figures in points, with Kayla Jones scoring 12 and Crutchfield and Jakia Brown-Turner adding 10 each.

Lorela Cubaj and Nell Fortner postgame press conference

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