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Virginia tops Tech in final home game

Wright finishes regular season career as Virginia

During senior guard Monica Wright's final game at John Paul Jones Arena, No. 18 Virginia defeated in-state rival Virginia Tech 55-46. Wright left the game with 28.1 seconds remaining and received a thunderous standing ovation from a raucous crowd of 6,264.

"She's taught everyone here about what character really is," Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said. "If you were to paint a picture of a basketball player, you would paint Monica Wright because she just has all the right stuff."

Wright finished her regular season career as Virginia's all-time leading scorer and the third leading scorer in ACC history. Following the game, her jersey was retired and a banner was hung from the rafters honoring her achievements, but only after her teammates and coaches delivered a heartfelt tribute to her many accomplishments both on and off the court.

"I'm honored to be up there with Wendy [Palmer] and Dawn [Staley], Cathy [Grimes] and Donna [Holt]," Wright said. "It's an honor to have my name in the rafters forever, for as long as U.Va. exists."

Wright led the Cavaliers yesterday night with 27 points and added 10 rebounds. She got off to a rocky start, however, making only 3-of-10 during the first half, and her team trailed 25-20 at the break. But she caught fire after that, making six of eight shots and leading her team to 35 second-half points and the victory.

"It was really remarkable," Ryan said. "She just flipped a switch in the second half and got herself back on track and doing the right things. She just kept on going. It was like the energizer bunny."

Both teams stumbled out of the gate, especially on the offensive side of the ball. There were several long stretches during the first half that were devoid of any scoring, and neither team shot better than 31 percent. The Cavaliers in particular had a tough time creating shots, as they totaled only two assists and committed nine turnovers.

"We had a little slow start today," Ryan said. "Some of that was Virginia Tech, some of that was us ... I just felt like we weren't really matching their energy, and that's a big no-no in basketball."

When the second half came around, though, the Hokies continued to shoot poorly - making only 25.9 percent of their shots - while the Cavaliers hit their stride, going on an 18-3 run to take the lead 41-32 with 11 minutes left. The pivotal run included back-to-back three point plays by Wright that electrified the home crowd.

"Once we got going and got running and started stealing the ball, we were able to get some separation," Ryan said. "And that was the game."

Other top contributors for the Cavaliers were sophomore forward Chelsea Shine, who scored eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and freshman guard Lexie Gerson, who scored 11 points and hustled her way to four steals. The team was determined to make Wright's last home game one to remember.

"We owed [Wright] one," junior guard Paulisha Kellum said. "She broke the [Virginia] scoring record, and we came out and lost. This was payback, and we needed to win this one for her."

The win locked up the No. 3 seed for the Cavaliers in the ACC Tournament, which begins Thursday in Greensboro, N.C.

"It's been a focus of this team ever since the first day of practice," Wright said. "We're going to start with the ACC Tournament, move on, and work our hardest to get this program back to the championship"

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