Blacksburg, VA -- Just when it looked as if the Hokies and the Cassell Coliseum crowd had the Maryland Terrapins on the ropes, the Terps went on a game-ending 25-10 run and ended Techís season in overtime, 68-60.
The Hokies fell behind big early in this game, 28-13, but sandwiched a 37-15 run around half time and took a 50-43 lead with seven minutes to go. Tech, and a raucous Cassell Coliseum crowd of 2,524, appeared to have Maryland at a disadvantage. The Terrapins were shaky, the Hokies were inspired, and it was only seven more minutes before a third round WNIT date with Florida.
But in a nightmare turnaround for Tech, Marylandís Deedee Warley Ė and a game-turning foul call by the officials Ė put the Hokies away.
Warley, a burly 6-2 forward, led the Terrapins with 24 points on the night on 9-12 shooting, but more importantly, when the chips were down, she led her team back from the edge.
With the Hokies holding their 50-43 lead, Maryland started pounding the ball down low to Warley, and she went to work. She led a 10-2 charge by the Terps that saw them take a 53-52 lead with 3:14 to go.
"She (Warley) was just too much for me and Nicole to handle," Tech forward Tere Williams said after the game. "She just bowled us over."
Tech took the lead back on a jumper by Chrystal Starling with 1:50 to go that made it 54-53, but the Terps tied it up again with a free throw of their own with 1:32 to go.
The Hokies followed with an offensive sequence that saw them miss two shots and get the rebounds, the last one by Mollie Owings, who was fouled in the act of shooting with 1:03 to go. Owings, a reserve who had been inserted in the starting lineup for the two WNIT games, missed both free throws badly, the first one long and the second one short.
With the score still tied, Maryland missed a shot with 37 seconds to go, and after a Tech timeout, Starling missed a shot with ten seconds to go. Maryland snared the rebound, and unaware that almost ten seconds remained, heaved a three-quarter-court shot that landed out of bounds with 5.3 seconds to go. The Hokies set up a play but were foiled when Amy Wetzel dribbled into a trap sixty feet from the basket and simply held the ball as time expired.
Heading into overtime deadlocked at 54, the two teams traded baskets and free throws and were tied again at 58. It was at that point that an officialís call turned the tide.
With 2:54 to go, Wetzel drove into the lane and scored. She hit the deck hard after contact, and for an instant, the referees counted the basket and appeared ready to call a foul Ö but then the call was reversed, and a charge was called on Wetzel. Instead of a 60-58 lead and a trip to the free throw line, the score was still tied at 58, and it was Marylandís ball.
The Tech crowd went nuts, booing the call lustily. "I went up, and they didnít give me a place to come down," Wetzel said. "I know I didnít make contact on the way up, so it was a bad call. But what are you going to do? Youíve got to pick yourself up and keep playing."
But only one team played after that. The Terps proceeded to lay the Hokies out, scoring the next ten points to take a 68-58 lead. In the last few minutes, Tech turned the ball over several times, and Maryland made key shot after key shot, including a running bank shot with a minute to go that just barely beat the shot clock and made the score 64-58. Before the Hokies knew what was happening, they were the victims of a 68-60 loss, and their season was over.
"We did tonight what we did a lot at the beginning of the year," Coach Bonnie Henrickson said after the game. "We dug ourselves a hole we couldnít get out of."
Other than the charging call against Wetzel in overtime, the key stories in the game were Techís comeback, fueled by Tere Williams, and officiating that infuriated the Tech crowd all night long.
The Hokies were whistled for 19 fouls to Marylandís 16, not a large disparity, but many of the fouls called against the Hokies were touch fouls, while Marylandís Warley in particular had her way with the Hokies down inside. At the end of the game, the officials were booed loudly as they ran into the tunnel where three security guards waited.
Tere Williams, usually the picture of decorum and restraint when speaking to the media, said later, "I know Iím a player, and maybe Iím expected to say something like this, but Ö I thought most of the calls went Marylandís way tonight." She admitted that Warleyís bulling down low without reproach "bothered" her.
The sentiments, and the loss, spoiled a phenomenal game by Williams. In just her second game back after spending nearly a month on the sideline with a knee injury, Williams played an incredible 40 minutes and never faltered.
She only scored 5 points in the first half, which ended with the Hokies down 30-20, but she went crazy in the second half and overtime, pouring in 17 points and spurring a run at the start of the second half that saw Tech put up 20 points in the first seven minutes of the second half and take the lead back, 40-39.
After a frustrating first half against Marylandís man-to-man defense, Bonnie Henrickson started the second half by clearing her offensive players out of the middle and letting Williams go to work on her own. The Tech guards and forward Chrystal Starling repeatedly lobbed the ball down into Williams, who torched Maryland for seven second half field goals, most of them lay-ups.
With Cassell rocking, the Maryland players appeared to be rattled. They turned the ball over repeatedly and were generally outhustled by the Tech players. The Hokies seemed to have this one in the bag before the late Maryland comeback.
But now, the season is over at 20-11. It is the third 20-win season in Bonnie Henricksonís three-year tenure, and with the starters and a solid necleus of players all returning next year (only Kim Seaver and Missy Lemons graduate), expectations will be high again.
"Starting this spring, weíve got to get better," Henrickson said after the game. "Iíll give them a day off," she laughed, "but then itís back to work. Weíve got to get better."