NC State senior class finally gets Elite Eight breakthrough

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — With just over a second to play in Saturday’s Sweet 16 matchup vs. Notre Dame, NC State coach Wes Moore turned to his bench and shot two fists up to the sky. Moments earlier, on the other end of the floor, graduate guard Raina Perez hauled in a three-point attempt taken by Irish sophomore forward Maddy Westbeld. And as Moore looked back at his team, with the Wolfpack leading 64–63, he let out a cheer that was a full game—and nine years—in the making.

For much of Saturday’s contest, the looks on the faces of the longtime NC State coach, and those on his bench, were all too familiar. Moore often paced the sideline with his arms crossed over his red quarter-zip sweater, his face stoic. Players seldom had reason to cheer. The Wolfpack trailed from the 7:34 mark of the second quarter until 14.8 seconds to play in regulation, when Perez, noticing that Irish senior guard Dara Mabrey had the “basketball stuck on her hip,” came up with a steal and transition layup that flipped the Sweet 16 clash, and perhaps the legacy of the NC State senior class, on its head. After losing in this stage for each of the past three seasons, the Wolfpack are finally into the Elite Eight, their 66–63 victory marking a long-awaited triumph.