Deja Kelly showed why shows getting all the hype in the preseason.
In a game that Carolina lead from the jump until midway through the fourth quarter, Kelly capped off a thrilling last minute of action by hitting a layup with the score tied at 58, while also drawing a foul. She would hit the free throw to give the Tar Heels a three-point lead with just under two seconds left. If not for the next play, it would be the most remembered part of the game.
St. Johns called timeout to advance the ball, then Danielle Patterson hoisted up a shot hoping for a call, which the referee obliged. The call was questionable, as Kelly may have been trying to foul before the shot went up. However, the referees let Kelly express her frustration without calling an additional technical, and in one of the best cases of “Ball don’t lie,” Patterson missed the first two of the three free throws. The Tar Heels were able to inbound and run out the clock.
The final few seconds capped off a wild back half of the fourth quarter. St. John’s rallied back to take their first lead with 6:39 left, getting Alyssa Utsby to foul out in the process. St. John’s would extend the lead to five with 3:57 to go, but as they had multiple times the season, the Tar Heels stormed back. Kelly would lead a 7-0 run to take the lead back with 1:19 to go, however, St. John’s wouldn’t go away. St. John’s would tie it off a Mimi Reid jumper, and then Kennedy Todd-Williams grabbed a huge board and laid the ball in with just 29 seconds left. Reid would once again tie it down low, setting up the end of game heroics for Kelly.
Kelly led all the scorers with 18 thanks to 7-16 shooting and going 4-5 at the line. She missed her only three, but Todd-Williams and Eva Hodgson would go 5-9 from behind the arc to help answer any time St. John’s tried coming back. Utsby would score 13 even though she was in foul trouble all day, and her absence really tilted the court toward St. John’s in the fourth quarter.
Jayla Everett led St. John’s with 17 points, but it was on 4-13 shooting. She did go 3-5 behind the arc and 6-6 at the FT line. Patterson filled in 13.
St. John’s was successful in slowing the action down and muddying up the game, plus they got the benefit of several foul calls. The managed to go to the line 22 times, hitting 17, while the Heels only went eight times, hitting seven.
The Tar Heels now move on to the round of 32 on Monday Night, facing off the hosting Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes had to rally from an early double-digit deficit to beat James Madison in the first game on Saturday, and the winner advances to the Sweet 16 in Seattle.