Cardinal Gibbons All-Time Leading Scorer Commits To UNC

Olivia Smith will follow in the footsteps of her three older sisters and enroll at UNC.

Smith will be another addition to the UNC women’s basketball team’s 13th-ranked recruiting class, according to ESPN.

“We are excited that Olivia will be joining our 2016 class,” said head coach Sylvia Hatchell. “Having someone with Olivia’s basketball IQ, work ethic and personality as well as being an exceptional student fits right in with our team. Olivia had offers from Harvard, Yale and other Ivy league schools and we are happy that she will be an ambassador for our great University.”

She was a four-year starter at Cardinal Gibbons High School and compiled career totals of 1,709 points, 736 rebounds, 288 steals and 136 assists.

“Carolina is unlike any other university,” said Smith. “My three older sisters chose UNC and I have seen their Tar Heel pride and joy day-in and day-out. When I step on campus I feel an energy and excitement that is unmatched anywhere else.”

Smith was named a USA TODAY North Carolina first team selection last season.

“It’s a place I’ve dreamed of attending and now I’m lucky enough to have the chance to play basketball at the school I’ve grown up watching,” she said.

Two UNC Recruits Named State Player Of The Year

Two women’s basketball recruits, Taylor Koenen and Jhileiya Dunlap have been named Gatorade State Girls Basketball Players of the Year for their home states.

Koenen is a guard from Minnesota and has led Shakopee High School to a 27-1 record.

She averages 21.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.2 steals per game. Koenen is a five-star recruit, according to ESPN and is ranked as the 43rd-best player in the country.

Dunlap is a forward from Colombia, South Carolina and has also led to her team to a 27-1 record this season. Under her leadership, Dreher High School won its third championship in the past five season.

Dunlap averages 20.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.6 steals, 3.1 blocks and 2.9 assists per game, good enough to earn the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association’s 2015-16 Class AAA Player of the Year honors.

Watts, Walker Honored by ACC Ahead of Tournament Tipoff Wednesday

Members of the North Carolina women’s basketball team have been honored by the Atlantic Coast Conference ahead of the conference tournament beginning on Wednesday.

UNC guard Stephanie Watts was selected as the ACC Freshman of the Year, the league announced on Wednesday.

Watts won ACC Rookie of the Week honors four times over the course of the season, more than any other first-year players, and finished at No. 10 in the conference scoring list, averaging 14.5 points per game. The Wesley Chapel native also checks in among the conference’s leaders with 1.3 blocks per game. Watts led the Tar Heels in scoring 11 times, including posting a career-high 30 points versus NC State on February 21.

Watts was also named to the All-ACC second team, on Tuesday. Watts and teammate Destinee Walker both earned selections to the conference’s All-Freshman team.

Walker, from Orlando, Florida, scored in double figures 27 times during the season – the most among ACC freshman – and averaged 14 points per game.

Walker, Watts and the rest of the Tar Heels will be in action on Wednesday in the ACC Tournament matching up against Pittsburgh.

Tipoff is scheduled for one o’clock. The game can be heard live on 97.9 FM/1360 AM WCHL.

Stroman On Sports: Up Or Down For The UNC Women?

The 2015-16 UNC women’s basketball team was ranked in the preseason top 25, but the season itself has been a slog. A midseason injury to Xylina McDaniel depleted a roster that had already been hit with several key preseason transfers – and now, the Tar Heels head into this week’s ACC tournament as the 13th seed, needing a miracle run through the tourney to qualify for an NCAA bid. (And the worst may be yet to come, depending on what sanctions the NCAA decides to impose in the wake of The Scandal.)

But from another perspective, the future for UNC women’s basketball looks bright. Freshman sensations Destinee Walker and Stephanie Watts have shined for the Tar Heels this year and their Carolina careers are only just beginning – and head coach Sylvia Hatchell can look forward to a strong recruiting class coming in next fall.

Are the Tar Heel women on the rise or on the decline? WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Deborah Stroman, sports commentator and UNC business professor.


The Tar Heels take on 12th-seeded Pittsburgh in Round 1 of the ACC tournament, Wednesday at 1 pm in the Greensboro Coliseum. (The winner faces no. 5 seed Miami on Thursday.)

UNC loses final regular season game to Duke

On Sunday afternoon head coach Sylvia Hatchell did not get the birthday present she had hoped for, but instead her team was served a 93-57 blowout loss to Duke University in Carmichael Arena.

Freshman Stephanie Watts led North Carolina with 18 points in UNC’s final game of the regular season. In addition, freshman Destinee Walker contributed 14 points, while redshirt junior Hillary Summers added 10 points and 15 rebounds for a double-double and a career-high in rebounds.

Duke was led by Rebecca Greenwell’s 27 points, followed by Oderah Chidom’s 20 points.

UNC closes out the season with a 14-17 overall record, while 4-12 against ACC opponents, ending the season on a five-game losing streak. The team’s downfall of the season was away games, in which the Tar Heels lost eight of nine games.

With the win, Duke is 19-11 overall and 8-8 against conference opponents.

UNC did not have a lead or tie the Blue Devils at any point in the game. With 57 points, it is the fourth least amount of points North Carolina has scored all season. UNC failed to break 60 points five times this season.

A Duke 7-0 run over two and a half minutes gave the Blue Devils a 9-2 lead at 5:30 in the first period. Once UNC broke through with a Cherry three-pointer, the team was 1-for-6 in their attempts over the scoring drought.

The Blue Devils did not completely run away with the game early on, leading the Tar Heels 23-14 at the end of the first period.

The second period would be North Carolina’s downfall and the major difference in the game, as the Tar Heels were outscored 30-8 after UNC went 10-for-35, shooting only 28 percent in the first half.

“I felt like we just got behind because of our defense,” Summers said. “We just have to do better with that. You can score all day, but if you’re not stopping the other team you can’t win.”

At halftime, North Carolina trailed 53-22, with Greenwell’s 19 first half points for Duke nearly matching UNC’s score.

“Our defense the first half was basically non-existent because they just scored at will,” Hatchell said. “But again, Duke played well, shot the ball good, got rebounds, but we didn’t defend them very well at all. We took some bad shots and they were able to come down and get some easy buckets on transition.”

The Tar Heels nearly matched the Blue Devils’ 21 third period points with 17 of their own, though they ended the period trailing 74-39.

Again, UNC remained close in scoring in the fourth period with 19 points, compared to Duke’s 18.

“I feel like it’s kind of more motivation when you’re down, because it’s like, of course you want to come back and win,” Summers said. “At those moments we try to stick together and make sure we’re doing what we need to do. Obviously it was kind of tough today, but that’s usually what we try to do.”

At Duke’s peak, the Blue Devils led by 39 points at 80-41 with 7:43 remaining in the fourth period.

North Carolina completed only 28 percent of their shots throughout the game, going 19-for-66, compared to Duke’s 52 percent completion rate on the game. In addition, Duke had 54 points in the paint, compared to North Carolina’s 10 and 51 rebounds compared to UNC’s 33.

“Rebounding has been our Achilles’ heel all year and it definitely was tonight too,” Hatchell said.

With a nod to her seniors on Senior Day, Hatchell sporadically gave limited minutes to Rachel McGirt, Anne Corrigan, Marissa Riley and Paige Neuenfeldt. The four seniors combined for two points with a Riley field-goal.

Worth noting, Watts, an ACC Rookie of the Year candidate, went 5-for-11 on three-point attempts in the game. 15 of the freshman’s 18 points were from distance. On her impressive first year, Watts said the most memorable aspect of the regular season will be the team’s senior leadership.

“Although we may be limited in numbers, I guess that’s what people look at it as, the senior leaders were just able to really keep us motivated and keep us inspired to keep working hard and never give up,” Watts said.

The Tar Heels will next play in the ACC Women’s basketball tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, which spans from March 2 – 6. Their first game is on Wednesday at one o’clock against Pittsburgh.

“The regular season’s over and we’re getting ready for tournament time,” Hatchell said. “We need to learn a lot from tonight. I just talked to the team downstairs about what ACC tournament means and how well we’ve always played. We’ve been in the championship many times and we’ve done that with some teams that are not seated that high, so we’ve got a tough battle, but I want to go there and make some noise.”


Stroman On Sports: An Olympic Challenge

The 2016 Olympics is fast approaching, and all the eyes of the sporting world are soon to descend on Rio de Janeiro – but with concerns about pollution, poverty, disease, and a lack of infrastructure, it’s increasingly unclear whether Rio will be ready.

Deborah Stroman is a sports commentator and a professor at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. She and WCHL’s Aaron Keck discussed the state of the Olympics (including her experiences at Olympics past)…


…as well as the state of Tar Heel men’s and women’s basketball.

Stephanie Watts Takes ACC Rookie Of The Week Yet Again

It what is starting to become almost a weekly occurrence, UNC women’s basketball player Stephanie Watts has been named the ACC Rookie of the Week.

It is the fourth time, and second consecutive week, that Watts has been given the award.

This time it was because of her huge game against NC State on Saturday. Watts put up 30 on the Wolfpack and dominated all parts of the game.

She hauled in 13 rebounds, blocked three shots, came up with five steals and topped it off with a pair of assists as well.

Against Pittsburgh last Thursday, she added 16 points and six rebounds.

Watts averaged 23.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.5 blocks in two games last week for the Tar Heels.

She leads all ACC rookies in scoring (14.4) and blocked shots (1.24), and ranks second in rebounding (7.1) and sixth in both assists (2.5) and steals (1.4) per game.

UNC (14-15) visits Virginia on Thursday at 7 p.m. Tune into WCHL for game coverage.

UNC Holds Out for 71-67 Win

The North Carolina women’s basketball team picked up its second consecutive win with a suspenseful 71-67 victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday night in Carmichael Arena. UNC now stands at 14-12 on the season with a 4-7 ACC record.

The nail-biting victory came at the hands of several Tar Heels, with four players scoring double digits. Freshman guard Stephanie Watts once again led Carolina with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Redshirt junior forward Hillary Summers completed her seventh double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds, while sophomore guard Jamie Cherry contributed 15 points and five assists. Freshman guard Destinee Walker added 17 points.

The Hokies, now 15-9 on the season, were led by senior forward Hannah Young’s 22 points, followed by junior guard Vanessa Panousis, who contributed 14 points.

“We shot almost 50 percent and I thought that was pretty good because they’re a really good team,” head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “They’ve had some big wins and some excellent players and some excellent shooters. They’re a great perimeter shooting team, but these guys have just continued to get better and better. We’re light-years away from where we were in November and that’s because they’ve worked hard.”

North Carolina jumped ahead quickly, as the Tar Heels played with energy and tenacity, forcing Hokies head coach Dennis Wolff to call an early timeout with about three minutes remaining in the first period after a Destinee Walker three-pointer, her first of three on the night. UNC would lead 23-10 by the end of the period.

North Carolina had a somewhat lofty lead at halftime, winning 38-21 after making four of their last five shots in the period, and shooting 50 percent at the half. The first half also featured a 46 percent three-pointer completion rate for UNC.

“We did a great job of jumping out at the beginning, as we haven’t been doing in our past couple games that we’ve been losing,” Cherry said. “We actually tied a third quarter and that was our coach’s biggest deal, was to win the third quarter. Even though they outscored us in the fourth, we still hung tough and we stayed poised down the stretch as we did at Boston College and we did tonight.”

What eventually allowed the Hokies to climb right back into the game, despite never achieving a lead and never tying more than once, was not UNC’s usual dreaded third period. What almost did the Tar Heels in was their fourth period, in which they allowed the Hokies to score 24 points, compared to their 11 points.

North Carolina entered the final period of the game with what may have been assumed as a potentially comfortable lead at 60-43, but a 60 percent field-goal percentage and a 66 percent three-point percentage brought the Hokies right up to speed with the Tar Heels. UNC stalled in the first six minutes or so of the final period, scoring only two points and allowing Virginia Tech to creep back within eight points at 62-54.

A 20-4 run eventually relinquished North Carolina’s lead to just one point, at 64-63 with only 44 seconds remaining in the game. A game of cat and mouse, the Tar Heels and Hokies exchanged fouls as the seconds on the clock eventually ticked away. UNC went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line in order to secure the win.

Perhaps the biggest of the free-throws were Erika Johnson’s two baskets. Johnson, a redshirt senior forward, is a 39 percent free-throw shooter on the season.

“They’ve had great attitudes and they’re just fun to be around,” Hatchell said. “They make it exciting, that’s for sure. Foul shooting was big, we went 20-for-22 from the foul line and that was major. A good balance with our scoring, we out-rebounded. That was big. It’s fun to win and now we got to get ready for Florida. These guys did a great job”

Next for North Carolina is a two o’clock road game on Sunday at Florida State University.


UNC WBB Returns to Win Column

The North Carolina Tar Heels are back over .500 with their Sunday afternoon 86-78 win over Boston College in the Conte Forum. The team now stands at 13-12 on the season.

Redshirt junior forward Hillary Summers led UNC with a career-high 23 points and also contributed nine rebounds for a near double-double. Sophomore guard Jamie Cherry followed Summers with 21 points and 6 assists.

Senior guard N’Dea Bryant added 16 points and 6 assists, while freshmen guards Destinee Walker and Stephanie Watts pitched in with 12 points each.

This marks UNC’s first win since Jan. 7, a positive sign for the team, as they had previously lost their past seven games in a row.

The game against the Eagles marked Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell’s completion of her second suspension. Hatchell was serving a suspension sanctioned from the NCAA due to a Level III violation of rules regarding game day introduction simulations of prospects during an official visit.

The game marks five losses in a row for an also struggling Boston College team. The Eagles were led by junior guard Nicole Boudreau, who produced a career-high 26 points. Boudreau was followed by sophomore guard Kelly Hughes’ 17 points and freshman center Mariella Fasoula’s 14.

The Eagles had nine three-pointers in the first half alone, earning them a 42-36 lead entering intermission.

The game featured four ties and 10 lead changes, but it was North Carolina’s impressive third and fourth period showing that put them over the top.

After much back and forth, North Carolina gained and held onto the lead with 8:19 remaining in the fourth period off a Walker three-pointer. Usually plagued by a slow start after halftime, the Tar Heels shot a blazing 66.7 percent from the field in the second half, which cemented their win.

UNC next hosts Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. in Carmichael Arena on Thursday night.


UNC Loses to No. 13 Louisville

North Carolina set a new record in Thursday night’s game against Louisville in Carmichael Arena. The record, allowing a season-high 35 points in one period, led to UNC’s demise, as they fell 78-60 to the undefeated Cardinals.

The Tar Heels, now 12-12 on the season, were coming off a 49-78 loss against N.C. State in which the team lacked spark without head coach Sylvia Hatchell directing from the bench. Coach Hatchell was serving the first of her two suspensions, with the initial suspension being university-sanctioned due to her contact with an official on Jan. 24 against Duke.

Stephanie Watts, a freshman guard, said the team plays entirely different within Hatchell’s presence. The team was under assistant coach Andrew Calder’s guide for their N.C. State loss.

“It’s a whole different team; a whole different atmosphere when coach Hatchell’s there. She just brings such a passion and love for the game that it just rubs off onto us. You have no choice, but to just elevate to her level of intensity.”

Hatchell touched on her battle with leukemia as a source of toughness in her life that she pulls from in order to motivate her players during their seven game losing streak.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I went seven months not knowing whether I was going to live or die. I learned a lot. I’m pretty tough and you don’t know how strong you can be until strong is all you have. I’ve tried to teach them the toughness that I have and how to win through adversity.”

Despite Coach Hatchell’s return and early lead changes that kept North Carolina right in the game until nearly halfway through the third period, the Cardinals overpowered the Tar Heels. Louisville produced 17 points off offensive rebounds compared to North Carolina’s four, as well as Louisville’s 26 points off the bench compared to UNC’s six.

In a game that had four ties and four lead changes, Watts led North Carolina with 16 points. In addition, Hillary Summers, a redshirt junior forward, produced her sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Destinee Walker added 12 points.

Summers, who is admittedly playing through some knee pain, said her improved play this season has stemmed from her inspiration to be more of a leader to her teammates.

“I’m doing just anything I can to help my team out. They’re really good at passing me the ball and then we’re learning the plays better and learning how to really work the offense, so I’m just doing what I can to help us win.”

Hatchell said while her athletes are building endurance with each game played, it is a difficult challenge to balance her rotation with such a short bench. With senior Xylina McDaniel out for the season due to injury, only six players got in on the action.

“Sometimes whenever a player makes a mistake and I want to take them out to talk to them I’m ‘OK, who am I going to substitute? Or am I going to call a timeout? Or am I going to try, when we have a dead ball, try to say something to them?’ It’s definitely different.”

Watts said early excitement about a lead eventually turned to disappointment with the game’s eventual turnaround. North Carolina entered halftime with a 32-28 lead, but ended the third period down 63-52.

“I think us just having a little bit of a lead in the first half, we were pumped up, fired up, ready to go, but once they took the lead they had a little bit of a momentum shift and that got us down a little bit. We just weren’t able to recover from it.”

Louisville was led by freshmen – Mariya Moore’s 22 points was the game-high, followed by Asia Durr’s 21 points.

“I felt like they went hard the whole time they were out there. I was really focused on my team and getting us back in the groove, rather than what they were doing,” Moore said.

Next up for UNC is a Sunday matinee at Boston College at 1 p.m. The game will mark Coach Hatchell’s second suspension. Despite the rough times that come along with a losing streak, Hatchell said the team will have plenty to fight for during their matchup with Eagles.

“I told them in the locker room, you have three things on Sunday. First of all, Xylina, because of her surgery was today. Play for ‘Z’ because she won’t be there. I won’t be there. Also, they’re going to play for [assistant coach] Sylvia Crawley because she was the head coach at Boston College. I’ll put Coach Crawley in charge of making sure they are fired up and ready to play up there because that’ll be a pride factor.”