Irish punch their ticket to the Big Dance as ACC tournament champions

GREENSBORO, NC -- The Irish have punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament as ACC champions after defeating NC State Sunday 55-51 in a nail biter win.

Notre Dame controlled the tempo in the first half, taking a 28-22 lead into the break. But NC State came out swinging from halftime.

The Wolfpack outscored the Irish 21-13 in the third quarter, setting the stage for a dramatic fourth.

Maddy Westbeld, who only had two points in the first half scored 14 of her 16 in the second half.

ACC Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Hannah Hidalgo, took control as the game was tied at 51 with 1:30 to go, with an ankle-breaking drive for a lay-up and lead.

NC State committed costly turnovers in the final stretch commencing the foul game, where ultimately Hidalgo would hit one of two free throws to seal the victory.

Hidalgo went on to win ACC tournament MVP.

The "Big Three" for Notre Dame (Hidalgo, Westbeld and Sonia Citron) accounted for 49 of Notre Dame's 55 points. 

The Irish were down starter Kylee Watson, who injured her knee in the semifinal against Virginia Tech Saturday. Watson will have an MRI Monday to determine the extent of her injury.

This is Head Coach Niele Ivey's first ACC championship. She won previously as an assistant and was a Big East champion as a player.

This is also Notre Dame's first ACC Championship since 2019. They would go on to play in the National Championship that season, finishing as runner-up to Baylor, falling 82-81.

"I've seen you grow as a coach, and it's been so special to watch your relationship with the team...I just love ya and I want you to win it all," former Notre Dame Head Coach Muffet McGraw said to Ivey post-game.

The Irish will find out when and where the NCAA tournament starts for them on Selection Sunday, March 17.

Perhaps a little luck of the Irish on St. Patrick's Day will work in their favor for hosting first rounds at Purcell Pavilion. 

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