NEW ORLEANS -- When the final whistle blew and Tennessee had beaten Virginia, 70-67, in overtime, Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt searched for her 6-month-old child, Tyler.
When she found the baby, who was wearing a T-shirt with the Virginia Cavalier mascot crossed out, she lifted him over her head toward the Tennessee section of the crowd of 7,865 at Lakefront Arena.
Tyler was almost born on a recruiting trip on a plane over Roanoke, Va., but Summitt held on and had her baby in Knoxville.
"The pilots wanted to land in Roanoke, but I said this child would not be born in Virginia," Summitt said. "This one is sweet because of the team, the players and what happened last year. I'm proud of the way they handled adversity."
The Lady Vols won their third title in five years yesterday by beating the team that knocked them out of the 1990 Final Four. Virginia upset Tennessee, 79-75, in overtime in the East Regional. That loss stayed in the minds of the Lady Vols.
Tennessee, the first women's team to win three NCAA titles, should thank guard Deana Head for this title.
Head took the Lady Volunteers into overtime by scoring five points in the last 1:15 of regulation and blocking a shot by Virginia All-America guard Dawn Staley on the last shot before overtime.
Head, who led Tennessee with 28 points, was then the calming factor in a frantic overtime. Head made five of six free throws in the extra period.
Tennessee (30-5) wrested the title by dominating the boards and performing on the line. The Lady Vols came into the Final Four shooting 65.4 percent from the line. But Tennessee made 13 of 15 free throws in the last two minutes of regulation and five minutes overtime.
Head became a leader when Tennessee All-America center Daedra Charles fouled out with 1:50 left in overtime.
"I think when Daedra Charles went out, we looked each other in the eye and we had fire in our eyes," Head said. "When we stepped to the line, we had a lot of confidence because we were doing it for her."
Tennessee did little pretty compared with Staley, whose flash and heart kept the Cavaliers in the game. Staley, the women's Naismith Award winner and the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player, had 28 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers.
But the Cavaliers (31-3) will remember how they lost a five-point lead in 75 seconds and how they were 1-for-7 from the line in the last 6:25 -- 0-for-5 in overtime. Virginia shot 36.8 percent from the line for the game.
"It seemed like we were behind most of the game," Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said. "We got up, but we couldn't keep from getting behind in overtime. We were going to the line and not making it."
Virginia was rarely able to establish its transition game. Staley hurt the Lady Vols with her penetration, but the Cavaliers were not able to score many points on the fastbreak. The Cavaliers were slowed in the second half, shooting 38.1 percent from the field after shooting 50 percent in the first half.
"I honestly feel we lost the game on a pick-and-roll play that allowed Head to go to the foul line near the end of regulation," said Ryan. "I felt that's where we basically lost control.
"But as far as the end of the game and where we lost it completely, yes, the foul shooting was a huge disadvantage."
The Cavaliers, however, said the loss would be an advantage in motivation next year.
"I think we have the confidence and the strength, individually and as a team, to be back next year," said Melanee Wagener, a 6-foot-2 junior from South Carroll High School. Wagener finished with two points and six rebounds in 27 minutes.