Posted: 11:01 a.m. Friday, July 19, 2013
By Todd Carton
On March 8, 2009, the Maryland Terrapins Women's Basketball team led by seniors Marissa Coleman and Kristi Tolliver took the floor of the Greensboro Coliseum with their eyes on a very specific prize: the ACC Tournament Championship Trophy. Coleman and Tolliver had shared brilliant careers in their time at Maryland winning a national championship as freshmen, with Coleman being named ACC Freshman of the Year, and winning the ACC regular season title as seniors - a season that saw Tolliver named ACC Player of the Year. But neither they nor Coach Frese could claim an ACC Tournament Title.
In a classic and emotional semi-final the day before, Maryland had derailed North Carolina's bid to win its fifth straight tournament title. Though the Terps never trailed the outcome never seemed assured until the game's final minutes when they finally pulled away to a 95-84 win. But the road to the title would have to pass through yet another North Carolina city as the Terrapins would face the Duke Blue Devils.
Inspired by a pre-game pep talk from former Maryland running back Lamont Jordan, the Terps came out hot scoring the game's first six points. But this game would be easily analogous to a boxing match fought in close quarters with every punch in the form of a mini-run countered with one of equal or greater ferocity. So, after a quick time out, Duke came back with a 14-4 run to take a four point lead. Trailing 23-18, the Terps fired back scoring fourteen of the next sixteen in a run that featured three pointers by Tolliver and Coleman and an unlikely baseline jumper from Yemi Oyefua to pull ahead by seven with three and a half minutes to play.
But Duke punched back scoring nine straight in a minute and a half to pull back into a 34-32 lead. Next it was Maryland's turn to counter with a Coleman jumper, a three point jumper by Anjale Barrett and an old fashioned three point play by Kim Rodgers sandwiching a single Duke basket and the Terps took a 40-36 lead into the locker room.
The second half opened with the teams going toe to toe. Duke nosed ahead by two on a three pointer with sixteen minutes to go but a Coleman jumper quickly pulled the Terps even and Marah Strickland's three point jumper put Maryland back in front. Coming out of the media time out, Strickland dropped in another three pointer to stretch the Terrapin lead to four. Duke rallied with five straight before another Strickland went bombs away again and the Terps led by two.
With Dee Liles dominating the boards and Coleman and Tolliver scoring, Maryland had another 6-0 run that opened a double digit lead with just under ten minutes left in regulation it looked like the Terrapins had the Devils on the ropes. But Duke wasn't done and they quickly scored six straight to close to within four at 65-61. The Terps again had an answer. Led by Tolliver's five point spurt, Maryland outscored Duke 7-1 to again go up by ten with six minutes left. But the Devils had another counter and scored six straight before Rodgers hit a three pointer. Coleman's layup with 2:12 to go gave Maryland a 81-75 lead but closed the scoring for the Terps in regulation and Chante Black's tip in with two seconds left sent the game into overtime.
Kristi Tolliver who came into the game with the flu but who, along with Coleman would play all 45 minutes, staggered to the bench. Coach Frese grabbed her in a tight embrace and worked her magic pumping energy into her senior star. Duke scored the first basket in the extra session but Tolliver had the answer for the Terps. Next, her running mate Marissa Coleman on her way to a monster game of 28 points and fifteen rebounds and the tournament MVP sank a three point jumper to put Maryland ahead to stay. The game remained in doubt until Kim Rodgers made two free throws with twelve seconds left and Abby Waner's desperation three point heave came up far short.
Mission accomplished. In another memorable Maryland -Duke overtime battle, the Terps came out on top 92-89 to bring home the Terrapins ninth ACC Tournament Championship but the program's first since 1989, the first for a pair of Maryland greats and the first for Coach Brenda Frese.