CINCINNATI -- A betting person would wager that, at some point, the Old Dominion women's basketball team will run out of the luck that has traveled with it all through the NCAA tournament.
The trouble for their opponents is that by the time that happens, the Lady Monarchs may already have the national championship.
With less than 10 seconds to play in overtime of their national semifinal last night, the second-ranked Lady Monarchs, clinging to a one-point lead and with two starters fouled out, allowed third-ranked Stanford to have three shots at the basket, any one of which would have ended their season.
Instead, all three shots missed, and Old Dominion escaped with an 83-82 win to advance to tomorrow night's national championship game against Tennessee and a chance to win its fourth title overall and its first in 12 years.
"This basketball team never ceases to amaze me. They continue to find a way to win," said Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry.
The Lady Monarchs (34-1) came back from a 15-point first-half deficit behind the gritty play of All-America forward Clarisse Machanguana, who scored all 18 of her points in the second half and the overtime.
Machanguana, a 6-foot-5 native of Mozambique, played well defensively in the first half but struggled from the field. After a stern talking-to from Larry in the dressing room, she hit three baskets in an 8-0 run to start the second half that gave Old Dominion the lead.
"Sometimes I make the mistake that when my offense doesn't come to me, I don't force it," said Machanguana. "Coach Larry pretty much told me that the free-throw lane was wide-open and I had to do something."
Said Larry: "The effect that Clarisse made in the second half from the tip until the end of the game was incredible. We felt if we could just get her the ball, she could do something."
Machanguana almost did something fatal at the end of the overtime. After point guard Ticha Penicheiro missed the front end of a one-and-one -- the third time in postseason the All-American has missed free throws that could have clinched a game -- the Cardinal (34-2) set up a final play with 23 seconds to go.
Point guard Jamila Wideman dribbled down court and with nine seconds to go took a shot that bounded off the rim. Vanessa Nygaard grabbed the rebound and threw up a shot that barely touched the rim. Stanford's Charmin Smith, who had hit two free throws with 10.1 left to force the overtime, grabbed the rebound and tossed it out to Wideman.
Machanguana came flying at the 5-6 Wideman and appeared to make contact as the senior guard threw up a desperation three-pointer that hit the rim and bounded off as time ran out.
"I thought of standing in front of her to make her shoot over me. I don't know if I got her, but I'm just glad it wasn't a foul," said Machanguana.
Said Wideman: "I gave a fake and took her up with me on the right side. The shot just didn't go down. I think there was contact, but there was contact all night."
For all of the Lady Monarchs' luck, they earned their second win of the year against Stanford the same way they got their first in December, by playing outstanding defense.
Stanford senior guard Kate Starbird, the Naismith player of the year, had blistered the Lady Monarchs for 21 points, including four three-pointers.
In the second half, the Lady Monarchs switched to a zone, forcing 16 of 29 Stanford turnovers and put forward Mery Andrade on Starbird, who had just five points after intermission.
NOTES: The Lady Monarchs overcame the largest deficit, 15 points, in NCAA semifinal history, beating Ohio State's nine-point comeback in its 1993 semifinal against Iowa. Old Dominion's 33-game winning streak matches Connecticut's string, which Tennessee stopped in the Midwest regional final.
Women's Final 4
Old Dominion 83, Stanford 82, OT
Tennessee 80, Notre Dame 66
Old Dominion vs. Tennessee, 8:30 p.m.
Pub Date: 3/29/97