March 20, 2012
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – The final buzzer sounded, and Metra Walthour flipped the ball into the air while some Georgia Tech teammates exchanged a few hugs at midcourt.
For the Yellow Jackets, the feeling was twofold: Relief to finally getting a win at this stage of the women’s NCAA tournament, and determination not to let it be the last one.
Georgia Tech earned a spot in the second weekend after beating Georgetown 76-64 on Tuesday night in the second round of the Des Moines Regional behind 23 points from freshman Sydney Wallace.
“Way overdue, Georgia Tech being in the Sweet 16,” coach MaChelle Joseph said.
Sasha Goodlett added 14 points and 11 rebounds for the fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets (26-8), who shot 50 percent and never let Georgetown get closer than eight in the second half to win for the 15th time in 18 games and prolong the best season in school history.
Up next is their biggest challenge: A trip to Iowa to face Baylor – the tournament’s top overall seed – on Saturday in the regional semifinals.
“We know we’ve never been to the Sweet 16 before, so we want to celebrate,” Walthour said. “But this is not as far as we want to go. We’re here to play, and we’re confident and we know we’re not done yet.”
Sugar Rodgers had 14 points on 4-of-19 shooting and Tia Magee added 10 points for the fifth-seeded Hoyas (23-9), who were denied a second straight spot in the round of 16.
Georgetown didn’t get closer than 10 in the final 12 minutes, with Alexa Roche’s jumper pulling the Hoyas to 64-54 with 6 minutes left. Chelsea Regins followed that with a layup and Walthour added a 3-pointer with about 4 minutes to play to make it 69-54 – the Yellow Jackets’ largest lead to that point.
“We had the right pace going – just at the wrong times we took a play off,” Magee said. “And No. 23 (Wallace), she did a great job hitting shots. They just hit shots at the most crucial times, and every time we tried to fight back, throw a punch back, we couldn’t get it rolling.”
Walthour finished with 15 points and Regins added 14 for Georgia Tech, which had never won multiple games in any of its previous seven NCAA tournament appearances.
These Yellow Jackets set school records for victories both overall and in the Atlantic Coast Conference (12) and claiming its best-ever NCAA seed, and came to Chapel Hill hoping to make some more history.
“Ever since we came in, we wanted to do something special. We wanted to leave our mark on this program,” said Goodlett, a senior. “We came in thinking, `We have to make it to the Sweet 16. We have to take this program somewhere it’s never been.’ We don’t have any excuses. … We’re not going to let this program drop. We wanted to elevate it, take it a step further.”
Only, nobody thought it would be Wallace leading the way.
She played a total of just 22 minutes during her team’s three-day run at the ACC tournament before becoming the unquestioned breakout player of this four-team subregional.
Wallace scored a season-high 28 points off the bench in her NCAA tournament debut against Sacred Heart, then followed that up with a performance nearly as impressive.
“I just came here with confidence, and I knew I had to step up for my senior leaders and just play my role,” Wallace said.
Showing no hesitation whatsoever to pull the trigger, she hit nine of her 20 shots and buried five 3-pointers. She needed just 15 minutes to hit double figures, scoring 14 points in the first half on 6-of-12 shooting while helping give Georgia Tech a comfortable lead it would enjoy virtually the entire second half.
Neither team led by more than five points until late in the first half, when Wallace and Goodlett helped the Yellow Jackets begin to pull away. Wallace’s jumper in transition with 1 minute before the break capped an 18-6 run that gave the Yellow Jackets their first double-digit lead at 37-27. Georgia Tech then methodically increased its lead the rest of the way.