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For seniors on Terps women's team, the end 'hasn't really sunk in'

Terps' #5 Malina Howard and teammate #42 Brionna Jones fight for a loose ball with Washington's #0 Chantel Osahor in the first half of the University of Maryland vs. Washington women's 2016 NCAA Division I Women's basketball championship game at the Xfinity Center.
Terps' #5 Malina Howard and teammate #42 Brionna Jones fight for a loose ball with Washington's #0 Chantel Osahor in the first half of the University of Maryland vs. Washington women's 2016 NCAA Division I Women's basketball championship game at the Xfinity Center. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

This wasn't the way it was supposed to end.

Not here. Not like this.

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The Maryland women's basketball team was a strong favorite to move ahead in the NCAA Tournament on Monday night. The Terps were playing on their home court and they were playing a Washington Huskies team that appeared to be at a serious depth disadvantage.

None of that mattered. The seventh-seeded Washington Huskies scored a stunning 74-65 upset at Xfinity Center that brought Maryland's terrific season to a crushing end.

For the four seniors who had made it to the Sweet 16 in each of their previous seasons, it had to be difficult to comprehend how they had fallen so hard in the place where they had been almost unbeatable throughout their college careers.

"It just hurts a lot,'' said senior center Malina Howard, trying hard to hold back tears. "The four of us, we came in and we wanted to leave our mark on Maryland. Obviously, it's not the way I wanted it to end, but I'm glad I got the opportunity to play here for four years and be a part of a lot of special moments."

Guard Brene Moseley, who scored 16 points and had seven assists, said she felt "numb."

"This is hard, but I know I left everything in this place,'' she said. "I can walk away and know I left my heart in this place."

Maybe it was too early to talk about memories and accomplishments. The Terps seemed destined for much more in this tournament, but the seniors already had been to a pair of Final Fours and finished this season with an impressive 31-4 record.

"This senior class has been through a lot,'' said forward Tierney Pfirman. "We've overcome a lot of challenges. We can go through anything together."

Of course, only one team gets to reach the mountaintop each year and this senior class -- though it came close more than once -- wasn't really ready to look ahead to a time when they aren't going to be together any more.

"It's so hard,'' guard Chloe Pavlech said. "I absolutely love this school, love this program. I love everything about Maryland. It's been my dream school since fifth grade, so it's just been an honor to play here, especially in front of all the fans. I know they've been behind us all season and playing with some of my best friends, it was just a phenomenal season."

"It hasn't really sunk in that I'm not going be putting on this uniform again. I'm not going to be on this court again. But, I'm sure in a couple days it will really hit hard."

No one could really explain why the Terps didn't click on Monday night. Maybe it was the way the Huskies threw a human wall around junior center Brionna Jones. Maybe it was that Huskies guard Kelsey Plum simply would not be denied from any point on the court. Maybe it was just wasn't meant to be.

"I just didn't feel like our offense was there,'' Pavlech said. "The tough thing about it defensively, if you're not getting stops and Washington's going to keep capitalizing on that, then it's hard to come back. But even though it felt a little off, I never thought we were going to lose. It was just a true credit to Washington. I thought they were the better team tonight."

Coach Brenda Frese could only thank her seniors for all they have done and send them off to wherever their futures take them. She has done that many times, but she said late Monday night that she does not have a doubt that all of them will be successful in whatever they do with their lives.

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"First of all, as a group, I told them in the locker room, just everything they meant to our program -- the work ethic from Day One to, by the time they leave, the fact that they've only lost eight times in this building,'' Frese said. "That's remarkable, just twice a year if you average that out in terms of the amount of success that they've had. They're all going to go on and be very successful – Chloe whether she goes into journalism or coaching, Malina as a doctor, Tierney and Brene, as their careers come to a head they have really bright futures in whatever they choose to go into."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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