- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 8, 2009

GREENSBORO, N.C. | Marissa Coleman and Kristi Toliver have done just about everything in four years at Maryland - with one notable exception. One more victory, and they’ll take care of that one, too.

The fourth-ranked Terrapins ended North Carolina’s dominance of the ACC tournament Saturday with a 95-84 victory in the semifinals. In the process, they put themselves into position to claim their first league title in two decades.

“This team’s on a mission - we want to win the ACC championship,” Coleman said.

Coleman scored 29 points, Toliver - the ACC’s player of the year - had 25 and rookie of the year Lynetta Kizer finished with 15 for the top-seeded Terps (27-4). They have won 11 straight and 14 of 15, advancing to their first league championship game since 2006 by snapping four-time defending champ North Carolina’s 13-game winning streak in the event.

Maryland will face No. 8 Duke in Sunday’s title game. For Toliver and Coleman, freshmen in 2006 who that season helped lead the Terps to their only national title, capturing an ACC crown is the final achievement left on their to-do lists.

“When we entered this tournament, we had plans on playing three games [in] three days,” Toliver said. “We came into this tournament having that mentality, and now that we’re finally at the third game, it’s going to be all adrenaline, all heart.”

Italee Lucas had 26 points, one shy of a career high, while making five 3-pointers for the Tar Heels (26-6). They twice rallied from double-figure deficits but couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to avoid their first loss in the ACC tournament since the 2004 title game vs. Duke. They also failed to become the third team - in either gender - to win five straight ACC tournament titles.

“This is something a little different for us, but we’ll learn from it,” coach Sylvia Hatchell said.

Jessica Breland had 23 points, and Rashanda McCants added 18 and hit a 3 with 2:36 remaining that pulled North Carolina within 83-81. Demauria Liles hit a putback moments later, and Toliver followed with two free throws and an 18-foot jumper to finally give the Terps a sizable lead that they couldn’t blow.

“When they came back on us, we knew that our offense was so good that we were going to get it back,” Toliver said. “Once we did get it back, we knew we had to keep it that way, because they can get back on you in a hurry with their transition.”

Toliver was just 6-for-17 from the field but 13-for-13 from the free throw line for the Terps. Maryland took the lead for good on Kizer’s layup with 11 minutes left, a key bucket that came during an 11-point run.

They finished with a 41-34 rebounding advantage, turned North Carolina’s 19 turnovers into 31 points and - with Toliver and Coleman repeatedly drawing contact as they shot - made more than twice as many free throws (29) as the Tar Heels attempted (13).

“I got real frustrated, I’ll admit that,” Hatchell said. “I don’t know if anybody in the league could keep them off the foul line, because we sure couldn’t.”

No. 8 DUKE 75, No. 12 FLORIDA ST. 57: Jasmine Thomas scored 14 points to help the Blue Devils (26-4) beat the Seminoles (25-7).

Carrem Gay added 13 points for third-seeded Duke, which easily avenged a regular-season loss and reached the championship game for the second straight year.

Tanae Davis-Cain had 14 points for second-seeded Florida State, which has lost 28 of the past 31 meetings in the series. Florida State had earned a share of the ACC’s regular-season title for the first time in school history but fell behind by double figures midway through the first half and never recovered.

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