Maryland Wins 2009 Women's ACC Tournament
March 8, 2009
Maryland and Duke will have nearly two weeks off before they open NCAA tournament play, and after today's epic ACC Tournament championship, they'll welcome the break. The down time should allow the legend of Marissa Coleman to percolate. Just in case that's necessary.
Coleman's 3-point field goal with 2:54 left in overtime gave the Terrapins the lead for good, and they held on by completing a nearly perfect afternoon from the foul line to defeat Duke 92-89 in the ACC Tournament championship game. The Terps overcame the disappointment of losing a six-point lead in the final 90 seconds of regulation, and they improved to 10-1 in OT during the careers of spectacular seniors Coleman and Kristi Toliver.
"We continue to show that overtime is our time," coach Brenda Frese said. "What a tremendous game. What a tremendous win with two teams that had the will to win."
Coleman finished with 28 points, 15 rebounds and six assists to deliver Maryland its first ACC title since 1989. The Terps went 23-of-24 at the foul line, a tournament record for any game with 10 or more attempts.
"I think it has to go down as one of the greatest games in the history of the ACC Tournament," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "I'm very, very proud of our team. I'm very proud of our fight."
The OT was the first in the ACC finals since the Terrapins lost to Virginia 106-103 in three extra sessions in 1993, a classic some consider the best game involving two ACC teams. The other chief candidate is another Duke-Maryland encounter, the 2006 NCAA finals. In that one, Toliver, then a freshman, forced extra time by hitting a heavily contested 3-pointer at the end of regulation, and her team went on to a 78-75 win in Boston.
Something similar played out today in the Greensboro Coliseum. The Blue Devils, down 81-75 and reduced to hoping Coleman would miss a 3-pointer in the last two minutes of regulation, charged back and necessitated extra time on Chante Black's tip-in with 2.3 ticks left.
As it prepared for another five minutes, Frese reminded her team that it hadn't lost yet.
"We knew they would have momentum after that shot, but we just stayed composed throughout this tournament," Coleman said.
Duke took the lead three separate times in OT, but the Terrapins responded. Coleman's two free throws produced a draw with 3:34 left, and after Karima Christmas put the Devils up 87-85, Coleman demanded the ball and knocked down a trifecta from the top of the key.
"I don't remember who set the screens," said Coleman, the tournament Most Valuable Player.
After Kim Rodgers made two clutch freebies with 12 seconds to play, the lead was again three. The Terrapins would need just about everything they made. Duke forced 19 turnovers while committing only eight, and that margin kept the score tight.
The Devils sought the tie and the Terps decided to play standard defense rather than fouling around midcourt to prevent a 3-point attempt. Frese admitted she didn't have the chance to make a specific directive because the Devils had compelled the Terps to take their final time outs to avoid turnovers.
Abby Waner, whose remarkable range and quick release make virtually any shot feasible, took a pass, stepped back two feet and fired from just in front of the left sideline. When the shot missed, the Terrapins were champs.
"Abby does take things pretty hard, but we are going to let her know that we have great confidence in her," Duke forward Carrem Gay said. "We have a couple more games to go get what we want."
Both teams await their NCAA tournament draws. The Terps know they'll play at home in the first two rounds because their arena, the Comcast Center, has been designated as a site. The Blue Devils could wind up anywhere. Both will be high seeds with great chances to make the Final Four in St. Louis.
And who knows? Maybe extra work will be required.
"The thing I love about overtime - and our players know this - is that it's a mindset," Frese said. "You have to embrace it."