Virginia Tech 61,
Georgia Tech 59
-- Virginia Tech freshman guard Carrie Mason was the last player Georgia Tech or anyone at Mackey Arena expected to take the final shot. But as she dribbled past speedy Yellow Jackets guard Alex Stewart on the way to the basket, Mason showed no hesitation. She switched the ball from her left hand to her right as she swept by Georgia Tech's last defender, center Sonja Mallory, laying the ball in the basket with 1.1 seconds left.
Mason's field goal allowed Virginia Tech to escape with a 61-59 East Region victory over Georgia Tech today in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Hokies (22-9), who won their fifth consecutive first-round game, meet Purdue in the second round on Monday.
"Really, we didn't have anything designed," said Mason, who got the ball off an inbounds pass with six seconds remaining. "You just try to make a play off the dribble and that's what happened. They didn't [closely guard her] and I had the layup. Fortunately, it fell for me."
Georgia Tech (20-11) put its best perimeter defender on Mason, but Stewart did little to impede her path to the basket.
Mason "made a heads-up play," Georgia Tech Coach Agnus Berenato said. "Alex was playing her a little too tight. She should have given her a little bit more room."
Mason had struggled in her first NCAA tournament game, turning over the ball several times against Georgia Tech's press. She missed all three of her three-point field goal tries and was 2 of 7 from the field before her layup.
"Definitely, it wasn't one of my better games, but you just have to keep fighting through it," Mason said. "You kind of have to put everything that happens the previous 39 minutes 50 seconds behind you because it is a new ball game at the time."
Virginia Tech Coach Bonnie Henrickson was pleased her young point guard kept her composure despite her early struggles.
"Even though she didn't play well, emotionally she avoided the roller coaster," Henrickson said. "Because if you beat yourself up . . . She is probably not confident enough to go in the lane and get a pretty good look. That's what makes her special."
Virginia Tech took a 24-14 lead with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half. The Hokies were scoring with ease, making 9 of 10 shots from inside the three-point arc, and 11 of their first 18 shots overall.
But Georgia Tech stormed back, closing the half on a 14-4 run that cut the lead to 29-28. The Hokies made just two field goals over the final eight minutes before halftime.
Virginia Tech's scoring drought continued into the second half. The Hokies made only two field goals the first five minutes as Georgia Tech took its first lead, 37-33.
The Yellow Jackets held the lead until Hokies freshman Dawn Chriss (St. John's) tied the score at 47 with two free throws. Virginia Tech didn't go in front, however, until Ieva Kublina and Chrystal Starling hit back-to-back three-pointers for a 59-53 lead.
The Hokies held the lead until Fallon Stokes (25 points) made a layup with 20 seconds left to play that tied the score at 59.
Virginia Tech shot well against Georgia Tech, making 53 percent of its field goal attempts. The Hokies' poor ballhandling, however, took away from their strong shooting. Virginia Tech had 20 turnovers, which led to 23 points for Georgia Tech.
"It wasn't that they were forcing us into the turnovers," Mason said. "It was more we didn't keep our poise. We weren't calm with [the ball]. We made bad decisions."