Years later, Williamsport's Tierney Pfirman heads to Penn State as a Terp
By Gene Wang
The Washington Post|
Feb 05, 2015 | 3:27 AM
COLLEGE PARK — When Maryland women's basketball player Tierney Pfirman was a high school standout, she often would hear comparisons between her game and that of fellow Williamsport, Pa., native Kelly Mazzante. Pretty flattering, since Mazzante finished her career at Penn State as the Big Ten's all-time scoring leader.
The assumption at the time, at least in some circles, was that Pfirman also would wind up roughly 70 miles from her home in State College. The 6-foot-2 forward instead decided on College Park in part because she wanted to separate herself from constant reminders about how she was on deck to become the next Mazzante.
“When I was old enough and knew I didn't want to follow in her footsteps, I kind of wanted to make my own journey, my own path,” said Pfirman, who is heading back to her home state to play in front of family and friends when the fifth-ranked Terps meet Penn State tonight at Bryce Jordan Center.
Maryland (19-2, 10-0) is seeking its 13th win in a row and to remain the only unbeaten team in the conference.
The Nittany Lions (5-17, 2-9) are the only unranked opponent for Maryland over its first four games this month. The Terps beat No. 20 Iowa, 93-88, on Sunday and have consecutive home games against No. 19 Nebraska and No. 21 Rutgers after Penn State, which has won six straight in the series.
It's the first game in 11 years between the schools. The last meeting was Dec. 3, 2003, when Maryland lost, 82-65, in College Park. The Terps last beat Penn State Dec. 7, 1997, and haven't won there since Dec. 5, 1991.
“I know a lot of people that followed me in high school wanted to follow me in college,” Pfirman said. “The distance from home to here is a little challenging for their jobs and their work hours. Just to know I can go back home and play in front of everyone that supported me, was there for me throughout my high school career, is definitely exciting.”
The junior is third on Maryland in rebounding in Big Ten games and has been among coach Brenda Frese's first players off the bench, averaging 15 minutes per game and providing a spirited inside presence. Pfirman also possesses a reliable midrange jumper that has allowed her to shoot nearly 54 percent, third highest for the Terps.
But Pfirman isn't the only Pennsylvania-born player anticipating hearty support tonight. Starting sophomore guard-forward Shatori Walker-Kimbrough is from Aliquippa, approximately 160 miles west of Penn State and half an hour from Pittsburgh.
Walker-Kimbrough is Maryland's leading scorer in conference games (15.9) and had reached double figures in 12 straight before recording nine points against the Hawkeyes. She's second on the team in overall scoring average (14) and rebounding (5.6) and third in assists (2.0), steals (1.6) and blocks (0.6).
“Most people forget how big Pennsylvania is,” Walker-Kimbrough said before practice Wednesday at Xfinity Center. “It's about the same distance [from Aliquippa] to here, but family is coming down, got a little van coming down, so they're all pumped up.”
The last time a Maryland player went back to her home state to play this season was Jan. 15, when Laurin Mincy faced Rutgers. The redshirt senior from Newark, N.J., scored a season-high 24 points during a 71-59 triumph at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.
The Terps also have three players from Ohio — juniors Malina Howard and Chloe Pavlech and freshman Kristen Confroy — but do not play Ohio State on the road this season.
“We always love being able to take our kids back home and to cherish those road games with family and friends and a lot of other people who can't make it otherwise,” Frese said. “You always have a lot more energy playing for them.”