Aaron Schoonmaker

Knee injuries mounting for Triangle women's best

Posted March 7

North Carolina State Wolfpack center Markeisha Gatling (34) watching the loose ball. N.C. State faces Syracuse in the Women's ACC Championship quarter final game in Greensboro N.C. After a close first half, N.C. State has a strong second half and wins by a score of 63 to 79. (Chris Baird / WRAL Contributor).

— Early in the second half Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum with NC State trailing Syracuse, the lights went out. Moments later, the lights came back on and so did the Wolfpack as they seized complete control.

Then, after scoring a career-high 28 points and playing a key role in fueling a 25-1 run that lifted the Wolfpack to a comfortable 79-63 win, first-team All-ACC forward Markeisha Gatling came up grimacing while attempting to post up on the right side of the key.

It appeared to be the dreaded non-contact knee injury to her left leg. She was helped off and never returned. NC State head coach Wes Moore said following the game that the X-Rays were negative and she will have an MRI later in the evening.

“She gave them an unbelievable post presence,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “If she doesn’t do that, we win the game.”

Seemingly as quick as a light switch, NC State’s top scorer, was added to the long list of top Triangle women’s players with knee injuries.

The Wolfpack have been bit by multiple knee injuries in recent weeks having lost both senior guard Myisha Goodwin-Coleman and senior center Lakeesa Daniel to ACL injuries. Should they lose Gatling for the weekend or beyond, that is a combined 32 points per game confined to the bench. Oh, and they are slated to go up against No. 1 Notre Dame Saturday in the semis.

“We had to play without her for a couple stretches today, so I have confidence,” senior Kody Burke said about the prospect of being without the senior from Athens Drive High School. Burke will be tasked to shoulder the bulk of the load – with or without Gatling – if the Wolfpack want to make any sort of run in the NCAA Tournament.

The first of Burke’s 2014 postseason dress rehearsals went better than scripted as she poured in 21 points and added 16 rebounds against Syracuse.

“The ACC Tournament is the time to make a statement for the postseason,” Burke said.

Duke has been hit just as hard with the knee injuries losing its core backcourt. Both senior Chelsea Gray and sophomore Alexis Jones will be coaching teammates the rest of the way for a Blue Devils team that lost four of their final eight regular season games, and according to head coach Joanne P. McCallie, “are starting a little bit of a new season.”

“There is no precedent on the men’s or women’s side on the losses we have had, “McCallie said. “We need to be a rebounding and defensive team more than ever.”

On Friday night in the third of four quarterfinals in Greensboro, Duke did just that, out-rebounding Georgia Tech 49-36 and holding the Yellow Jackets to an abysmal 24 percent shooting in an 82-52 win.

The Blue Devils also doubled Georgia Tech up on points in the paint and set a new conference tournament record with 13 blocked shots. They could possibly live without two top guards if they play that big inside for the next month.

"Blocked shots are intimidating," Duke's Elizabeth Williams said after swatting away five on Friday. "Everyone had their hands up."

The victory creates a matchup with either North Carolina or Maryland Saturday in the conference semis.

UNC, on paper the healthiest of the bunch, is not without loss as head coach Sylvia Hatchell is not expected back until the NCAA Tournament. Their biggest obsticale may be youth as they often start three freshmen. 

"We never use the excuse of being young as a bail-out," interim head coach Andrew Calder said.

None of NC State, Duke or UNC have to worry about making the big dance, all are comfortably in. Adapting to injuries and relying on the next player up will be key in determining how far they go, however. 

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  • Gunnstigator Mar 8, 7:58 a.m.

    It is a real shame that Duke and now possibly State will be playing without some of their best players. Hate this for any team. Gatling may be OK since the x-rays came out negative; hope that's the case.

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