Spartans Defeat NC State

By: AP
By: AP

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Mia Johnson and Allyssa DeHaan dreamed of playing for a title this season, just not this one.
Behind Johnson's 17 points and DeHaan's 15, including a game-winning putback, Michigan State beat North Carolina State 58-57 on Wednesday in a WNIT semifinal.
"A championship is still a championship, and we're still playing in April," Johnson said. "When we weren't selected for the NCAA, I know I didn't take it well. But instead of looking at the door that closed, we saw the one that was open."
Johnson's 3-for-5 accuracy from 3-point range and 6-for-6 work at the foul line helped the Spartans (23-13) lead for most of the second half.
But it took DeHaan's rebound layup with 11 seconds left to keep Michigan State home for the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Spartans will play Marquette (20-14), which beat Colorado, 86-72.
"We're playing for a championship," the 6-foot-9 DeHaan said. "It's not the NCAA, but it is a championship. We've learned to gut it out, and that should really carry over to next year."
DeHaan's backup, Lauren Aitch, added 12 points for the Spartans, who held off several Wolfpack challenges.
The last two came on a 19-foot jumper by Tia Bell and a 12-foot leaner by Sharnise Beal that gave N.C. State (21-13) one-point leads.
"We talk a lot about making plays," Suzy Merchant said after tying the Spartans' record for wins by a first-year coach. "We don't always play well, but we did at a couple key moments. If you string those together, good things can happen."
The two best were DeHaan's last layup in a year with maddening inconsistency on the boards and a runner from the Wolfpack's Shayla Fields that was wide-right at the buzzer.
"We're into the whole dramatic-finish thing," DeHaan said. "I knew I had to get that offensive rebound, and I barely rolled it in. It was the slowest roll ever."
Nikitta Gartrell led N.C. State with 14 points. Khadijah Whittington had 13 and Bell 12 on "Think Pink" night, in honor of visiting coach Kay Yow, a breast cancer survivor with 725 wins.
"You start out admiring a lot of people," Merchant said. "Kay Yow changed our profession and has a been a first-class person. All the things you hear about her are the things you hope your players say about you some day."
Michigan State wasn't that hospitable at the outset. The Spartans scored the first nine points, then watched the Wolfback claw back to take a 28-25 lead.
A 3-pointer from Johnson made it 28-28 at the break, and the second half was almost that close.
"She really had a good game tonight," Yow said of Johnson, a player she recruited. "I thought we were fairly close on a couple of those shots. But you could tell she had a lot of confidence. You could tell they had a chance to go in."
Yow forecast better days for both programs, with just one senior starter on either team and only two seniors in the playing group.
"It's very important for young teams to get this far," Yow said. "But it's very disappointing for us, no doubt about it."


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