Feb. 27, 2005
ATLANTA, Ga. – All season long, if there was a play to make, the ball has been in Seminole point guard Holly Johnson’s hands. Sunday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum vs. Georgia Tech was no different. Johnson hit a straight away three-pointer with 9.2 seconds left to lift Florida State to a 51-49 win over the Yellow Jackets in the regular-season finale. Sophomore Alicia Gladden paced the Seminoles with 13 points and nine rebounds while senior Linnea Liljestrand hit three, three-pointers on her way to 11 points and five boards. The win put the Seminoles at 23-6 overall and with a 9-5 ACC record, the Tribe earned a fourth-place finish in the league. The ACC is the No. 1 rated conference in the nation this season. The Jackets fell to 13-13 overall and 4-10 in the league.
“We tried to run a play and it actually didn’t work out the way we wanted it to and the shot clock was running down,” Johnson said. “Quint (Neely) pitched the ball back to me and I just took the shot. I don’t know what it is or why I continue to hit these shots, but I’m thankful and I’m lucky. When it left my hands, I had a good feeling but still at the same time, when it went through the net, I still couldn’t believe it went in. It was just great for us to have the opportunity to go in and beat Georgia Tech.”
Florida State had a chance to run away with the game with a 12-point lead early in the first half, but the Seminoles have thrived on the close games this season with a 4-1 record in games decided by four points or less. The lone loss was a 59-58 decision to the Yellow Jackets in the ACC opener back in January. Overall, FSU is 9-2 in games decided by 10 points or less.
“As far as the close games, I’ve told the team, and I really believe, their character comes out,” FSU head coach Sue Semrau said. “They’ve been through hard things and they’ve fought and they believe. They believe that they can face something hard and head into it and come out victorious. There’s just no statistic for kids stepping out without fear, for players, like Holly, having the courage to shoot that shot when she did. It says a lot about the trust and courage of this team.”
The Yellow Jackets, who had the one-point advantage at halftime, turned it on in the second half and led by as many eight points twice in the final 20 minutes. The last time was at 45-37 with 5:53 left in the game. The Seminoles outscored the Jackets 14-4 the rest of the way. Roneeka Hodges, who was held to a season-low seven points, began the FSU comeback with a jumper at 5:29. Liljestrand followed with a three-pointer. Perhaps the unsung hero of the game, LaQuinta Neely then came up with two huge offensive rebounds that resulted in a bucket and two free throws and the Seminoles trailed by just a point with 2:48 left. Tech’s Janie Mitchell answered with a three-pointer and Gladden hit a lay up down the middle to make the score 49-48 with 1:04 left in the game. The Seminoles turned to what’s worked all season long in the final minute of the game – defense. The Tribe put on the heat and Ganiyat Adeduntan came up with the steal to give FSU the ball back with 33 seconds remaining for what was to be the winning shot. The Yellow Jackets could not get a good shot off at the end of the game.
“I just thought this game was a portrait of who this team is,” Semrau said. “They have bought in and owned the identity that we’re not going to win games because of our offensive prowess. We’re going to win games with our defense and rebounding. Georgia Tech had 18 fewer shots than we did and for us to get more offensive boards than defensive shows that week at practice. We were out of sync offensively which is expected after a week off but again, to be able to win games when we’re not shooting the ball well is important and that says a great deal about this team.”
The Seminoles trailed 22-21 in what was a very strange first half. With solid ball movement and relentless defense, FSU had a strong first 10 minutes in which five different Seminoles scored and the Tribe led 16-4 with 9:51 left in the half. The second 10 minutes was an entirely different story. The Yellow Jackets outscored FSU 18-5 in the final 8:57 and had balanced scoring in the process. Tech had six players score in all including five players with four points apiece. Liljestrand led all players with eight first half points.
FSU shot a season-low 28 percent from the field for the game but outrebounded Tech 36-33. The Seminoles had a positive assist to turnover day with 13 assists and just 10 mishaps. Georgia Tech shot 40 percent for the game and was led by Stephanie Higgs’ 14 points. The win snapped a five-game losing streak to the Jackets.
Seedings for the 2004 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, March 4-7, will be released early next week.