Title caps rise from oblivion NCAA WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT

April 04, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

RICHMOND, Va. -- To appreciate fully what winning the national championship means to the North Carolina women's basketball team, one must step into the dreams of center Sylvia Crawley.

In Crawley's freshman year, the Tar Heels finished last in the Atlantic Coast Conference, winning just two of 14 conference games.

Yesterday, Crawley and guard Tonya Sampson, the only seniors on the North Carolina team, reached the pinnacle of the sport after being in the basement with the Tar Heels' 60-59 victory over Louisiana Tech in the NCAA championship game.

"It means a lot, looking back from where we came to where we are today," said Crawley. "It's really special to know that you've come from the bottom."

Crawley, a 6-foot-5 native of Wintersville, Ohio, said the quest for a national championship even had slipped into her dreams.

"I woke up at 5:30 this morning and dreamed I was playing defense," said Crawley. "My teammate Jill Suddreth told me that I had been dreaming something crazy. I've dreamed about this day so many times, and finally my dreams have come true."

Into the record books

North Carolina forward Charlotte Smith set a championship game record with a career-high 23 rebounds, breaking the old mark of 20, set by Old Dominion's Tracy Claxton in the 1985 game against Georgia. Smith tied an overall tournament single-game record, set by Cheryl Taylor of Tennessee Tech in a first-round game against Georgia, also in 1985.

Smith's 13 second-half rebounds beat Claxton's record of 12 in a half, set in the same 1985 title game.

North Carolina also became the second team to win a men's and women's national championship. Stanford was the first, winning a men's title in 1942 and women's titles in 1990 and 1992.

Officially speaking

The two officials who worked yesterday's title game, John Morningstar and June Corteau, had ACC connections.

Morningstar of Westminster, Md., is one of the league's best officials, and Corteau was an ACC official until this year.

Linda Bruno, chair of the Division I women's basketball committee, said both officials had earned their way into the final through their performances in the early rounds and regionals, which were evaluated by committees. She said their appearance in the championship game and connections to the ACC were coincidental.

"I didn't know anything about that," said Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore. "I have too much to worry about to worry about the officials. Let me tell you something: North Carolina won the basketball game."

Refining the tournament

Bruno said the committee has decided to award first- and second-round sites to 16 teams for next year's tournament.

It will stage first-round games on Thursdays and Fridays and second-round games on Saturdays and Sundays, going head-to-head with the men's tournament.

"I really liked it this year, where we had one whole day [Wednesday, when all 32 first-round games were played] to ourselves, but in order to make sure that we can allow schools that might have a schedule conflict to host, we have to do it this way," said Bruno.

Barmore, who complained loudly Saturday about being forced to play yesterday's title game without a day's rest, got in one final zinger.

"After I get done with you guys [media], I'm going to go back to my hotel room and watch Duke and Arkansas [the men's finalists] play. They are playing, aren't they?" said Barmore.

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