COLLEGE PARK -- Spectators who come to watch Maryland and Virginia play women's basketball are advised to be prepared to stay for a while.
The Cavaliers and Terps added one more glorious chapter to what has become a thrilling rivalry last night with an 86-83 Virginia win in double overtime.
Add last night's classic to the three-overtime thriller last March in which the Cavaliers captured the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship, and you get the sense that these two teams are fated to play each other down to the last possession.
"It's a great, clean rivalry," said Virginia coach Debbie Ryan. "It's just one of those matchups. Both teams look forward to this. The players for both sides respect each other's talent. We came in knowing it was going to be a dogfight."
But, in what has become a pattern in the recent history of this series, the Cavaliers (22-3, 14-1), who have won the last four games against Maryland and four of the last five at Cole Field House, came out the winners.
"The game could have gone either way," said Maryland coach Chris Weller. "We've said that a lot with Virginia."
In the process, Virginia captured at least a share of an unprecedented fourth straight regular-season title, as well as the top seed in next month's ACC tournament .
To do so, the Cavaliers did what champions do, win down the stretch. Virginia overcame Maryland (13-11, 7-7) leads in the closing minute of both regulation and the first overtime, and capped a hard-fought game with a three-point play from reserve forward Charleata Beale.
Beale, who intentionally missed a free throw at the end of the first overtime of last March's game to get Virginia a chance to win that game, scored on a lay-in with 20.5 seconds left in the second overtime last night off an inbound play and sank the free throw to break an 83-83 tie.
"I wasn't thinking too much about what happened last year, but I had to get focused. We all wanted it so bad," said Beale. "Everybody wanted the ball. With a little bit of determination and heart, that play really worked."
That the play -- a fake screen, then a straight drive to the basket off an inbound pass called Philly in the Cavaliers' playbook -- worked was surprising, considering that it didn't exist before yesterday's runthrough.
"We put that play in at 11:31 a.m. [yesterday]," said Ryan. "I had a premonition. I knew something like this was going to happen and it was weird that that happened."
The Terps had chances to win at the end of each of the second half and the first overtime. In the first case, Bonnie Rimkus, who had a game-high 26 points and eight rebounds in 46 minutes, missed a shot with five seconds left. In the second case, freshman guard Kwana Williams threw away a pass intended for Rimkus in the post, allowing the Cavaliers to wriggle away.