#1 Seed Maryland Earns a Spot in The 2009 Women's ACC Championship Game
March 7, 2009
March 7, 2009
The North Carolina Tar Heels had two big comebacks in them this afternoon. The Maryland Terrapins required - and ultimately repelled - a third.
The top-seeded Terps got normal contributions from their senior stars, Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver, and one huge steal from a 5-foot-9 freshman to end the Heels' four-year reign as ACC Tournament champions, 95-84, in the semifinals.
Maryland (27-4) will seek its ninth league title and its first since 1989 when it faces the winner of today's second game between Duke and Florida State.
"Teams are going to make shots and go on runs," said center Lynetta Kizer, who had 15 points and nine rebounds for Maryland. "Instead of going inward, we stayed together and went ahead with the task at hand."
That was one final move on the resilient Heels, who wiped out an early 13-point deficit, took the lead and fell behind again at the break. Down 12 in the second half, they made 10 straight field-goal attempts and went back up 62-61 when Italee Lucas banked home a 3-pointer for the third time on the day.
The Terps surged. The Heels crawled back yet again, and down 79-78, they forced a Terrapin turnover. They ultimately set up an in-bounds play designed to free Lucas, who led her club with 26 points.
"On the play before, she had gotten wide open," said Anjale Barrett, the rookie point guard. "This play, I made sure didn't get the ball."
Barrett swiped the in-bounds pass and went in for a layup to give her team breathing room again. This time, it was critical. Carolina missed on its next two trips, and the Terps made the Heels pay. Maryland went 7-for-8 from the foul line in the final three minutes to move on.
"I was just happy I got the steal for our team," Barrett said, "because (Lucas) was hot."
She had company on both sides. Jessica Breland had 23 and Rashanda McCants 18 for the Heels, who went 10-for-21 from downtown. As is her custom in big games, Coleman played 39 minutes and led the way with 29 points of her own. Toliver was 0-for-5 on trifectas but 13-for-13 at the foul line and finished with 23.
For the first time since 2001, UNC will not play for the championship. Instead, Maryland will try to tie Carolina's record of nine championships.