When the history of Big East women's basketball is written it will be in the form of a novella. Even after all these years, the story is niche reading.
But thankfully, the last chapter will be devoted to the last three years of conference life, the wonder years, when Notre Dame and UConn lifted the Big East and staged a compelling, important, historic series that died at the hands of BCS bullies.
It was fun. It was emotional. And it ended Tuesday.
It ended with another championship game, the third straight between the programs, ranked second and third in the nation.
And this time, for the first time, the trophy went to Notre Dame.
After so much disappointment against UConn prior to the 2010-11 season, the Irish ended the rivalry in complete domination of it.
Led by their tremendous guards, Skylar Diggins and Kayla McBride, the Irish completed a three-game season sweep of UConn with a 61-59 win before 9,085 at the XL Center in the final Big East tournament championship game they will ever play in.
"What can I say other than I feel really bad for these guys," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "After putting ourselves in a big hole, we played an amazing second half."
But not one without its flaws.
Irish center Natalie Achonwa, playing with four fouls, took a pass from Skylar Diggins after a steal from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and scored with two seconds to play.
"We tried to foul [Diggins] three times," Auriemma said. "It took a long time for the officials not to call a foul [on UConn in the series against Notre Dame]. They picked the worst time. Three times we fouled her. We just didn't want to make it look intentional."
It was the fourth turnover in the final 4:43 for the Huskies, who also shot 0-for-5 from three — their first perimeter shutout since the national championship game against Oklahoma in 2002.
"Our three-point defense was fantastic," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.
The win was the seventh in the last eight games for Notre Dame against UConn, hard to believe about a program that's won seven national championships since 1995.
McBride led the Irish (31-1) with 23 points (11-of-25). Jewell Loyd added 16. Diggins scored 12 with six assists and five steals.
"It was just an amazing game," McGraw said.
The guards took 52 of the 63 shots the Irish attempted and scored 51 of their points.
UConn was led by Stefanie Dolson (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Breanna Stewart, who scored 16.
"It was a very emotional game and we thought we had it in our hands," Stewart said.
The Irish, who have won 26 straight since losing to No. 1 Baylor, spotted UConn the game's first four points, the first hoop coming off the opening tip when Stewart flicked the ball to Bria Hartley for a layup.
But then things changed — and dramatically.
The energy and defensive pressure that helped force 35 UConn turnovers the last time they played began to rattle the Huskies.
Notre Dame had the game tied 4-4 with 17:13 to play in the half and took off from there. The Irish scored eight straight and 20 of the next 24 points to take a 20-8 lead on a McBride three-pointer. Notre Dame looked like it might run away with this one.
But after McBride's hoop gave the Irish a 39-28 lead with 18:06 to play, Stewart, in her finest moment, began to lead the Huskies back. She scored six straight to tie the game at 39 with 12:34 to play.
"She had a great game, maybe the best I've seen her play this year," McGraw said. "Dolson, too. They were just so much for us to handle."
And then it came down to the final 10 minutes, the score tied at 43 after Morgan Tuck's first basket of the night.
The teams traded baskets until Notre Dame forged a 55-51 lead. Another McBride hoop made it 59-53 with 2:56 to play. Achonwa could have made it eight with 2:09 to play but missed a layup.
The door was open. Stewart, Hartley and Dolson stepped in to tie the game again at 59.
"We fought in the second half," Dolson said. "It doesn't really matter how I played."
Diggins missed a layup with 37 seconds to play, then Faris missed with 23 to play before grabbing the offensive rebound.
UConn called a timeout with 18.4 seconds to play and with possession.
"We had many different options," Stewart said. "I caught the in-bound, but I wasn't in position to shoot it. I could have taken the ball to the hoop, but I was thinking we needed to take the last shot."
Stewart instead dished to Kelly Faris who drove the baseline. Faris fed Mosqueda-Lewis, whose pass was stolen by Diggins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun