- The Washington Times - Monday, March 9, 2009

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Using the tip in a pep talk by former Terrapins football star LaMont Jordan, Maryland’s players converged at midcourt before the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Sunday and started to scuff the league logo.

“He said every time he went into New York he always went to the 50-yard line and marked his territory,” senior guard Kristi Toliver said. “So that’s what we were kind of doing in North Carolina.

After knocking off four-time defending champion North Carolina and rival Duke on consecutive days, Tobacco Road — and the ACC — belong to the fourth-ranked Terrapins.

Marisa Coleman had 28 points and 15 rebounds, Toliver added 24 points and Maryland captured its first ACC title in 20 years with a 92-89 overtime victory over No. 8 Duke on Sunday.

A day after ending the Tar Heels’ run of dominance, the Terrapins (28-4) likely locked up a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament by holding off the Blue Devils (26-5) in the biggest game between the teams since the 2006 NCAA final.

In that game, Toliver drilled a tying 3-pointer to force overtime in Maryland’s victory, and this time the top-seeded Terrapins recovered after the Blue Devils capped regulation with a 7-0 run, forcing OT on Chante Black’s tip-in with 1 second left.

“To beat two teams of that caliber in the state of North Carolina is huge for us,” Toliver said. “We’ll take that confidence into the NCAA without a doubt.”

In a well-played, high-paced game with the feel of the Final Four, the two heavyweights kept the game in doubt until the last possession, when Abby Waner’s desperation 3-pointer only hit the backboard. It set off a celebration complete with balloons, confetti and the sight of Maryland cutting down the ACC nets for the first time since 1989.

“We never worried,” insisted Coleman, who added six assists, hit all six free throws and was voted tournament MVP. “We knew they were going to have a lot of momentum after hitting that shot. We just stayed composed and I think that’s what we did throughout this tournament.”

Carrem Gay had 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Jasmine Thomas and Karima Christmas scored 16 points apiece for the Blue Devils, who were denied their first ACC title since 2004 despite committing only eight turnovers.

“What we needed more than anything else was a few more stops,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We’re a pretty good defensive team, and that’s the thing that’s really going to sting for us when we watch it on film.”

Maryland will also wonder how it let Duke back in the game.

Thomas hit two free throws with 40 seconds left in regulation to cut a once 10-point deficit to 81-79. After Maryland’s Anjale Barrett missed a long jumper, Duke didn’t call a timeout and Thomas missed a runner in the lane. But Black came in from the other side and tipped it in with one hand, setting the partisan crowd into a frenzy.

As her players came to the bench, Maryland coach Brenda Frese focused on Toliver.

“I just wanted to get into her mind, just letting her know that she was going to find the energy and push through,” Frese said. “She was exhausted, and rightly so.”

Coleman’s 3-pointer with 2:53 left in overtime put Maryland ahead, and Toliver’s layup off an inbounds play with 1:20 left made it 90-87. After a series of turnovers, Waner’s layup cut the Terrapins’ lead to 90-89 with 20.9 seconds left.

After Kim Rodgers hit two free throws, making Maryland 23-of-24 from the line, Waner wasn’t close on her attempt to send the game to a second overtime.

The first ACC final since 2001 not to include North Carolina was a bruising game featuring plenty of hard screens and trash talk — but the only technical foul came when Maryland inadvertently came out of a timeout with six players on the floor late in the first half.

“This is a very high-level game that took place,” McCallie said. “Very much a March game, very much a season game. I just can’t say enough about it and, again, it’s why I was so drawn to the ACC myself.”

Black’s tip-in was a rare big play for Duke’s top scorer, who was saddled with foul trouble and finished with 11 points and eight rebounds on 3-of-11 shooting.

It helped Maryland stake claim to Greensboro, and give the Terrapins another emotional title victory over Duke.

“It’s too bad,” Toliver said, “that we had to break their hearts twice.”

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