- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2001

The Battle of the Beltway became an instant hit with local basketball fans.
Tickets to Thursday's West Region semifinal between Maryland and Georgetown a continent away at Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, Calif. are being snapped up almost as soon as they become available.
The two local rivals have not met since 1993, and not in the NCAA tournament since 1980. Yesterday's frenzy for seats showed the rematch is only beginning to satisfy fans longing for more regular meetings.
"The phones have been ringing off the hook since the minute we got in this morning," said Andrew Plenn, executive director of Maryland's Terrapin Club.
Members of the club, which funds athletic scholarships, receive first shot at the university's allotment of 1,250 tickets and are expected to exhaust the supply.
"There is a ton of interest in this game," Mr. Plenn said.
The secondary market for Thursday's clash is also booming. Local broker prices for a three-game pass to the West Region finals are reaching as high as $4,000. Face value is $90, and national sales to the general public were completed months ago.
"There's been a good bit of support for this game," said Karl Roes , president of Stagefront Tickets.com, a Laurel, Md., brokerage. "This is certainly an attractive game, but we've seen something like this coming. The Maryland fan base has exploded in the last few years."
The game offers numerous travel advantages to local fans unavailable in Boise, Idaho, site of the West subregion game that hosted both Maryland and Georgetown. Los Angeles International Airport, about a 45-minute drive from Arrowhead Pond, is accessible by direct flight from Washington. Round-trip ticket prices ranged from $500 to $750 yesterday, though some options did require a stop in Chicago or Minneapolis. Hotels are plentiful throughout the area.
Conversely, fans flying to the more remote Boise last week had a difficult time finding airline tickets that cost less than $800, many of which had three stops along the way. As a result, only 150 Terrapin Club members made the trip.
"Boise is just a very tough place to get to. Fortunately, that isn't an issue this time. Yes, the game is still a long way away, but we're getting none of the complaints about travel that we did last week," Mr. Plenn said.
Many fans appeared to be making their own arrangements rather than relying on a travel agent.
"The bookings have been better than Boise, but still not where it should be," said Kenneth DeMatteo, vice president of Sports Travel International, an Olney, Md., agency that arranges trips for Terrapin Club members. "We may have to eat a lot of reservations."
Among those forging their own way yesterday were Georgetown students Ryan DuBose and Joe Gerics. The pair spent most of the day surfing the Internet, looking for affordable airline ticket deals.
"This tournament means a lot to us," said Mr. DuBose, a third-year English and psychology major from Orange County, Calif. "Our team hasn't gone to the tournament since we've been students here, so it's fun for us to see this happen now."
They say there's no question who the winner will be. "Maryland's going down," Mr. DuBose said.
Georgetown, also allotted 1,250 tickets, is distributing its tickets similarly to Maryland. Boosters of the Hoyas received the first shot yesterday. Season-ticket holders, alumni and students will receive their opportunity this morning. If any seats remain, a general public sale will begin at 3 p.m.
"It's tough to say whether we'll still have any then," said Kim Frank, Georgetown's ticket director. "It's been an extremely busy day."
The NCAA requires every school in the rounds of 16 and eight to purchase at least 500 tickets, with an option to purchase up to 750 more. Most schools purchase the maximum, with some seats usually withheld for university officials, band members and others traveling to the games.
Maryland's enthusiasm is white-hot among ticket seekers, but some fear remains. The Terps, despite consistently strong teams in the Gary Williams era, have not advanced past the Sweet 16 in the coach's 12-season tenure.
"Every time we get to this level, we fall short," said Ryan Scott Forman, a Maryland alumnus and College Park sales representative. "But a lot of the others think we'll make it past the Sweet 16 this year. So I hope they're right."
Staff writer Ellen Sorokin contributed to this report.

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