GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Freshman Marissa Kastanek scored 15 points to help North Carolina State hold off Monica Wright and No. 24 Virginia 66-59 in Friday's quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Nikitta Gartrell added 12 points for the sixth-seeded Wolfpack (19-12), who built a 14-point lead midway through the second half then withstood a scoring barrage from Wright that nearly brought the Cavaliers (21-9) all the way back. N.C. State advanced to the semifinals for the first time since its surprise run to the final three years ago, and will face seventh-seeded Boston College on Saturday.
Wright scored 22 of her 32 points in the final 12 minutes for Virginia, but she got almost no help. Her teammates combined to shoot 9 for 36 (25 percent) for the game, leaving the ACC player of the year to carry the burden of bringing her team back.
She almost did it, too.
After going scoreless for 22 minutes due mostly to foul trouble, Wright scored 17 straight points for her team to help the third-seeded Cavaliers pull to 53-50 with 4:51 left. But N.C. State kept finding just enough offense to keep Wright at bay, getting a stickback from Sharnise Beal — who is playing through a knee injury that has her limping up and down the floor — on the ensuing possession to push the margin back to five and get back momentum.
A few minutes later, Gartrell knocked down a 3-pointer over Lexie Gerson to push the margin to 58-51 with 1:45 left. The Cavaliers made a final push to get back to within four on Wright's layup, but Kastanek knocked down two free throws to push the lead back up to 61-55 with 42.9 seconds left.
That was part of N.C. State's clinching 7-for-8 performance at the foul line in the final minute.
Wright got off to a fast start, scoring 10 of Virginia's first 15 points. But she didn't score again the rest of the half, sitting a spell after picking up her second foul midway through the first half before going back in the game and inexplicably picking up her third foul by reaching in on rebounder Lucy Ellison.
As soon as the whistle blew, the red-clad Wolfpack fans in a nearby section gave a loud cheer as Wright headed to the bench with 6:57 left in the half. Virginia didn't manage much offense after its star departed, getting just two field goals the rest of the half.
N.C. State took momentum to the locker room when Kastanek took a feed buried a hurried 3-pointer from the left corner at the horn for a 27-24 lead. The Wolfpack didn't let up, getting another 3 from Kastanek followed by one from Brittany Strachan that helped N.C. State take a 46-33 lead.
Even when things Wright finally got a jumper to drop, N.C. State pushed the ball upcourt and answered with another 3 from Kastanek for its largest lead, 49-35, with 11:32 left.