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Notre Dame beats NC State for ACC Tournament title

Notre Dame Hannah Hidalgo - The Canadian Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Star freshman Hannah Hidalgo had 22 points -- including a pair of baskets for the lead down the stretch -- as No. 14 Notre Dame held off No. 10 North Carolina State 55-51 in Sunday's championship game at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

It marked the Irish's first title in five years.

Hidalgo finished with six rebounds and six assists for the fourth-seeded Fighting Irish (26-6), while Maddy Westbeld added 16 points and seven boards.

Notre Dame won the ACC Tournament in its first four seasons in the league from 2014-17, lost in the final in 2018, then returned to claim a fifth title in 2019 under Muffet McGraw. But the Irish hadn't been back since amid the transition to Niele Ivey, a former Notre Dame player who led the program to the 2001 NCAA title and was a McGraw assistant.

Ivey, now 46, took over amid the COVID-19 pandemic as a first-time head coach. Now, she has her first title.

And this one came in front of a home-state crowd for N.C. State filled with plenty of red about 80 miles east of the second-seeded Wolfpack's campus home.

River Baldwin had 14 points and seven rebounds to lead N.C. State (27-6), while Aziaha James had 12 points on just 5-for-16 shooting.

After Madison Hayes' missed desperation 3, KK Bransford pulled down the rebound to seal the win. As the final seconds ticked away, Hidalgo -- a dynamic player named ACC freshman of the year and ranking as one of the nation's top scorers -- ran over to start jumping around in what quickly became a bouncing huddle of celebration as the horn sounded.

N.C. State had won three straight tournament titles from 2020-22, which had marked the program's first crowns since 1991.

Hidalgo put the Irish ahead to stay at 53-51, losing James around a screen and attacking Baldwin in the paint for a scooping layup while falling to the ground with 1:28 left. She ultimately hit the free throw with 10.5 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.

In a game in which neither team led by more than seven, mistakes loomed large and shots were hard to come by. But the Wolfpack came up empty late in two critical moments late, first when Saniya Rivers pushed the ball in transition but threw a kickout pass to the corner and straight out of bounds with 31.9 seconds left in a two-point game.

Then, after a free throw from Sonia Citron, James missed a quality 3-point look from the right wing out of a timeout. Hidalgo followed with her clinching free throw to start the Irish's celebration.