GREENSBORO, N.C. — GREENSBORO, N.C. - Lynetta Kizer had already seen Duke hit one buzzer-beating, game-tying shot off an offensive rebound in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final yesterday afternoon. So when she saw sharpshooter Abby Waner launch a three-pointer in the waning seconds of overtime, all the Maryland center thought about was boxing out, grabbing a rebound and making sure the Terrapins held on to their three-point edge.
Waner's shot glanced off the rim and right into Kizer's hands, which turned out to be, Kizer said later, "the easiest rebound of the night." And as she wrapped her arms around the ball, her teammates began to celebrate a 92-89 victory and the program's first ACC tournament title since 1989. Marissa Coleman threw her hands in the air and then hugged fellow senior Kristi Toliver, happy in the knowledge they had finally claimed the one prize that had eluded them in their careers.
"Shoot, all these freshmen just won an ACC tournament, so they're going to think this is easy!" said Toliver, the ACC Player of the Year. "They haven't necessarily had the same battles that Marissa and I have had. We knew what it was going to take, and I'm glad that we finally got it."
The Terps (28-4) beat Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke (26-5) on consecutive days behind the inspired play of their seniors. Coleman played 123 of 125 minutes in the three games, and Toliver, who was battling a cold throughout the week, logged 119 minutes. Neither came off the floor during the final. Both were named to the all-tournament team, and Coleman, who averaged 23 points on 54.5 percent shooting, 9.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists, was named the Most Valuable Player.
Coleman (28 points, 15 rebounds) and Toliver (24 points) scored Maryland's first nine points of overtime. The key shot came from Coleman, a three-pointer off a screen that moved the Terps into the lead for good, 88-87, with 2:53 left in the extra period.
"I want to say something about Riss: She'll keep going; she'll stop at nothing," Kizer said. "She hit a clutch three in overtime, and that's what gave us our motivation."
But Maryland's victory was also a testament to its evolving depth. Redshirt freshman guard Kim Rodgers, who played a total of 60 minutes during the regular season as she worked her way back from a knee injury that sidelined her all last season, scored 12 points and made two clutch free throws with 12.9 seconds left in overtime. Coleman referred to Rodgers, who averaged 10 points in the three games, as "the hero of the tournament."
Sophomore guard Marah Strickland missed 14 of the first 15 shots she attempted in Greensboro Coliseum, but she made three three-pointers during a 21-9 run that led to a 10-point lead in the second half. Junior forward Dee Liles grabbed 12 rebounds and came up with a steal in the final minutes of overtime.
"That's what's going to make it so special," said coach Brenda Frese, whose team will likely receive a No. 1 seed when the NCAA tournament brackets are released next Monday. "Everybody had key contributions at key times in the three days."