Women’s basketball goes 2-1 in ACC Tournament

The team’s performance helps earn a WNIT bid


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Jewel Spear takes a shot during an ACC Tournament game against Louisville.

Ian Steffensen, Sports Editor

There is truly nothing like basketball in March. Teams can turn around a bad season, get hot at the right time and make a run for the ages. Wake Forest women’s basketball looks to be following this trend as they opened up their postseason play in the first and second round of the ACC Tournament. The Demon Deacons entered Greensboro on an all-time low, having lost five straight and being the No. 13 seed in the tournament. They were underdogs, and everyone counted them out except themselves as they cruised to an easy victory in the first round over Virginia and made the second-largest comeback in ACC tournament history to win over Florida State.

“Credit to our young ladies,” Head Coach Megan Gebbia said. “They’re tired. They’re willing to fight through and just keep talking about them believing in themselves. I told them that I believe in them, and that they’re made for March. I’m really excited for this one.”

Wake Forest opened up the ACC Tournament facing off against the Virginia Cavaliers for the second year in a row. The Cavaliers jumped out to an early start with a 4-0 lead, but the Demon Deacons were able to counter with 16 unanswered points. After a dominant first quarter, Wake Forest led 19-8. 

The Demon Deacons continued to leave the door open though, as the Cavaliers began to hit their shots from the perimeter late in the first half. Virginia went on a 6-0 run to close out the half as they trailed by only three going into the locker room. 

In the third quarter, Wake Forest kicked it into high gear, scoring a total of 28 points. The Demon Deacons went on a 9-0 run, capitalizing on the Cavaliers’ turnovers and poor transition defense. Wake Forest built a lead of 21 with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Yet, Virginia refused to back down as they responded with an 11-1 run. Junior guard Jewel Spear went on a personal 6-0 run as Wake Forest led 56-41 going into the fourth. 

The Cavaliers came out aggressive in the fourth with a 14-4 run in the first five minutes, but the Demon Deacons answered on the other end and made their shots to hold on for the 68-57 victory. Spear finished with a game-high 19 points, and sophomore guard Elise Williams added 16 points. Defense was definitely the story of this one as the Demon Deacons forced 16 turnovers and were able to turn it into 23 points on the other end. Winning in the first round is certainly becoming a Wake Forest tradition as the team advanced to the second round for the fourth-straight year. 

Facing off against the No. 5-seed Florida State, a team Wake Forest faced a week ago and lost by one point, the Demon Deacons looked to flip the script. Down 20 points in the third quarter to the Seminoles, many expected the Demon Deacons to back down as they have so many times this season, but that all changed on Thursday as the team clawed its way back for the win. Florida State got out to a hot start offensively, draining shots from beyond the arc and jumping out to a 12-2 lead. Wake Forest finally found its footing and cut the deficit to seven as they trailed 21-14. However, the second quarter had to be one of the roughest quarters for the Demon Deacons this season. Wake Forest shot one of 12 from the field, and the usual tournament standout and secret weapon, Spear, was 0-for-8 and 0-for-5 from three. 

The Seminoles stretched their lead to 20 in the opening minutes of the third, but the Demon Deacons would not go away easily. Spear finally found her touch, as Wake Forest looked to mount a comeback. The Seminoles collapsed, and the Demon Deacons exploded offensively with a 26-0 run in the second half. Wake Forest repeatedly drove to the basket, and the shots began to fall as Spear scored all 19 of her points in the second half. The Demon Deacons pulled level before the end of the third, and senior Olivia Summiel added more insult to injury as she canned a triple to give her team the edge going into the fourth. Spear continued the run with back-to-back threes in the fourth. The Seminoles were able to end their drought halfway through the fourth, but the Demon Deacons kept them scoreless for more than nine minutes of action. That margin proved to be too much as Wake Forest held on to victory and closed things out 65-54. Spear was 6 of 11 from the field in the second half, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. Summiel, who put together one of the best performances of her career, added 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds. 

The shocked Seminoles left Greensboro, and Demon Deacons faced the No. 4 seed Louisville Cardinals on Friday. Despite an upset victory against the Cardinals earlier this season, the Demon Deacons could not pull it off again, losing 74-48.