RALEIGH – N.C. State senior Bonae Holston has scored 1,286 career points, but it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that she scored her first game-winning shot.
With the score tied 53-53 headed into the game’s final six seconds, the 5-foot-11 forward took a pass inside, turned and splashed a short jumper through the nets, handing the Wolfpack a 55-53 victory over South Carolina at Reynolds Coliseum.
Holston, who scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds, helped the Pack snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 5-2 this season.
“When you’re a little kid, you dream about hitting the game-winning shot,” Holston said. “That was the first one in my life.”
State coach Kellie Harper, who called for a set play after Holston made a steal on defense, said jokingly, “That might have been something I would’ve liked to have known.”
Harper then said, “Maybe I didn’t need to know.”
Holston, the team’s leading scorer this season, felt comfortable with the call – a clear out play she refers to as “The Money Play.”
Sophomore point gaurd Myisha Goodwin-Coleman brought the ball across half-court and waited for Holston to clear a screen and drop into the paint. She passed it low.
“I feel like my man never expects the screen, so I’m always open or get a decent shot,” Holston said.
On State’s previous offensive possession, her team down by two points with one minute, three seconds left on the clock, Holston used her deep position in the post to score a layup and tie the game at 53-53. It was a similar play to the game-winner.
South Carolina, which trailed at halftime, rallied in the second half and used a 17-4 run midway through to take a 37-36 lead. The Gamecocks turned the game in their favor with a nearly debilitating full-court press.
“We were on our heels when they first started running the press,” Harper said. “We were very timid. A defense sees you you being timid, they get more excited and they get more aggressive.”
The Gamecocks forced 16 State turnovers and scored 14 points off those turnovers. Outrebounding State 44-41, they also scored 38 points in the paint, bolstered by 14 points from freshman forward Aleighsa Welch.
The teams traded baskets down the stretch. Harper said her team improved defensively from its loss to Northwestern on Wednesday.
“It was more than just defense,” said State junior Marissa Kastanek, who added 12 points. “It was more about who we are as people. Our passion, our desire, our dedication, our determination, more of the intangible things that she wanted us to work on. ... We really came together as a team and said ... we want this to be our game.”
Harper reminded her team in each huddle to take “one possession at a time.”
Holston, who had paced her team with 14 points in the first half, had faded from game-action in the second half. But with the game on the line, having missed an earlier open layup, she felt like the scenario had been scripted for her. After countless AAU and high school games, after playing in 100 college games, she finally had her chance at a game-winner.
“If I would have missed the last two, I would have been sick,” she said. “I was confident because I knew the ball was coming to me. ... When we were running the play, I didn’t think about the situation. I just thought about the possession and finishing.”