UNC’s Sylvia Hatchell returns to watch women beat High Point

CorrespondentDecember 21, 2013 

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UNC women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell waves to her team and fans on Saturday as she is recognized prior to the Tar Heels’ game against High Point University at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill. Hatchell has stepped aside from her coaching responsibilities this season as she battles leukemia. She attended her first game of the season on Saturday, seated in the upper level high above the playing court.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Sylvia Hatchell got to see her UNC women’s basketball team play for the first time this season on Saturday, and the Tar Heels gave their veteran coach plenty of reasons to flash her trademark smile.

With Hatchell, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for leukemia, watching from a media box about 20 feet above the court, the No. 14 Tar Heels took control in the opening minutes and blew past visiting High Point 103-71 at Carmichael Arena.

Hatchell’s 28-year assistant Andrew Calder is directing the Tar Heels, who improved to 11-2.

Hatchell, who has met with her team several times during her absence from the sidelines, was kept away from the media on Saturday and did not do interviews. She stood for the national anthem but remained seated and waved when she was introduced to the crowd before the game.

“I’m so excited to watch our team play,” Hatchell said in a prepared statement released by the university. “I’m feeling great right now, with my (white blood-cell) numbers coming back really good.

“Patience is one of the hardest things right now for me, because I want so badly to get back with the team. I know I have three more treatments to go through over the next few months. If all goes as planned you could see me back on the bench this season.”

The Tar Heels had six players in double figures as Xylina McDaniel led the way with 16, followed by Danielle Butts with a career-high 14 off the bench and Allisha Gray with 14. Jessica Washington added 12 while Brittany Rountree and Stephanie Mavunga chipped in 11 apiece.

Calder said he appreciated Hatchell coming to a game so soon.

“That was really exciting,” he said. “I want to thank her again for continuing to help us as we go into each game. She helps us with the game plan and the motivation of the players. She’s doing a great job and we really appreciate her being here today.

“She was here last Sunday when the players were going to (Myrtle) Beach, and was in the office about two hours (Friday).”

Latrice Phelps had a career high 20 for the Panthers while freshmen Teddy Vincent added a season-high 14 and Harnett Central alumna De Anneisha Jackson 10.

“I grew up watching (Hatchell),” said High Point coach DeUnna Hendrix, who at 29 is the youngest Division I coach in the country. “I’ve always admired her.”

McDaniel said she was happy to finally see her coach’s face in the arena.

“We found out before the game, and everybody was really excited,” McDaniel said. “We just miss her a lot, so being able to see her face before the game was really good.”

Washington said she was happy Hatchell finally got to see her play in person for the Tar Heels.

“Seeing her up there was really good,” said Washington, one of four freshmen now starting along with the sophomore McDaniel. “I know she gets to watch us play on the computer and TV and stuff, but to see her up there was exciting for the team.”

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