The 86-84 final was not only a heartbreaker for the fifth-seeded Buckeyes, it was also one that seemed improbable for most of the game.
North Carolina, the No. 4 seed and host, led for more than 38 minutes and never trailed. The Tar Heels' largest lead was 23 points late in the first half, and they still had a 12-point advantage with six minutes left in front of 2,163 fans at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill.
Ohio State star freshman point guard Kelsey Mitchell started the comeback with a three-pointer that made it 78-69 with 5:17 to go, and Ameryst Alston and Cait Craft followed with two free throws apiece to make it a five-point game.
Carolina pushed the lead back to nine before Alston's three-pointer with 2:09 to go started a 9-0 run that finished with Mitchell's game-tying three with :39 left on the clock. That came right after she had forced a traveling violation by North Carolina's Brittney Rountree at the other end.
After Latifah Coleman put the Tar Heels back on top with a tough running jumper in the lane with 10 seconds to go, Mitchell got into the lane and drew a foul. She made both free throws with 5.1 seconds left, but that only set the stage for Cherry's heroics.
The Buckeyes (24-11) saw their season come to an end despite a combined 55 points from Mitchell and Alston. Freshman center Alexa Hart had a double-double for the Buckeyes with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but she also had a hard time containing North Carolina center Stephanie Mavunga, who was nearly unstoppable early the game and finished the night with 27 points and 14 rebounds.
Alston had 30 points on 11-for-22 shooting while Mitchell called 25 despite missing 16 of her 25 field goal attempts.
North Carolina (26-8) enjoyed a 45-34 rebounding advantage and outscored Ohio State 40-34 in the paint, but the Buckeyes had an astounding 34-12 advantage in points off turnovers.
Mitchell entered the game as the nation's leading scorer, and she finished with an Ohio State single-season record 873 points. That total is the second most by a freshman in NCAA history, 25 points behind Tina Hutchinson of San Diego State, who scored 898 points during the 1983-84 season.
One national record that did fall was three-point field goals. Mitchell had three to finish with 127, one more than the previous record of 126 that was shared by Lisa McMullen of Arkansas State and Sade Logan of Robert Morris.
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