For the second year in row, Arbutus native and McDonogh High graduate Brittany Mallory will play for an NCAA women's national championship.
Her back-to-back three-pointers and seven points in overtime propelled Notre Dame (35-3) to an 81-73 victory over Connecticut (33-5) in the national semifinals in Denver Sunday night.
Notre Dame plays unbeaten Baylor (39-0) for the national title on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
The clutch treys, which came after she was 0-for-4 from beyond the arc in regulation, also made Mallory an instant star and the first player interviewed on ESPN after the contest.
"My teammates just kept talking to me, `You're going to hit a shot. You're going to hit a shot,'" Mallory told a national television audience after the game. "I was getting a little down on myself and I just happened to keep finding the three-point line and my teammates found me and they couldn't have come at a better time."
The first one came with 2:31 left in overtime and gave the Irish a 73-70 lead.
Just over a minute later, Mallory converted Skylar Diggins' kick-out pass and made it 76-72.
She added a free throw with 41 seconds to complete her 7-point streak and help ice the game.
Notre Dame coach Muffett McGraw couldn't help but praise 5-10 graduate student, who finished with 11 points, five assists, four steals and four rebounds.
"I am euphoric for Brittany Mallory," McGraw said. "What a way for a senior to come through in one of the last games of her career."
The clutch performance against Connecticut is a familiar one for the two-year co-captain in a national semifinal.
In last year's 72-63 upset of Connecticut, Mallory hit one of two consecutive three-pointers that gave Notre Dame a 12-point lead with just over seven minutes left.
That advanced them to the national title game, which they lost to Texas A & M, 76-70.
After that game, Mallory reflected on the experience.
"I never did see myself playing in the national championship," Mallory told the Arbutus Times in 2011 "I'm very happy I got to this point and I'm so proud of my team because we have been through a lot."
Mallory and the rest of the team followed the motto 'unfinished business' and made sure they got back to the finals again, beating Connecticut three times in the process.
Mallory, who graduated from Notre Dame University last May with a degree in business management, could have ended her career with that loss to Texas A & M, but she came back and played this year because she had a year of eligibility remaining.
That extra year was allowed because she played only seven games during her sophomore season in 2008-2009 after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and having surgery.
It was a similar to the surgery she had on her right knee during her senior year at McDonogh School.
Her positive energy on and off the court are unprecedented, but her defensive toughness often means she guards the opponent's top backcourt player.
In addition to the clutch treys against Connecticut, she was instrumental in sharing ball-handling duties with point guard Diggins and beating the Huskies' press.
Mallory has started all 38 games this season and is second on the team in minutes played (1,113), steals (79), assists (88) and three-pointers made (38), while averaging 5.9 points per game.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun