Anxiety, then frenzy in Terps' home base

College Park erupts in celebration as UM advances to Final Four

Ncaa Tournament

March 25, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Chanting "We want Duke," about a thousand boisterous Maryland fans rushed into the streets last night to celebrate their team's historic victory, which capped off a day of anxious waiting.

Alumni, students and curious onlookers waved Maryland flags, pounded on passing vehicles and exchanged high-fives as they crammed into the main intersection of town for what they hoped was the precursor to an NCAA Championship victory parade.

"It means everything," said Dave Post, 30, who was waving a Maryland flag in the middle of Baltimore Avenue, the main road through town. "Everybody has been patient. Everyone is ecstatic and psyched that we finally made it this far."

Police closed Baltimore Avenue for short time to allow the crowds to celebrate in the street, but reported no problems. There were no arrests, police said, although they did report seeing a naked man wrapped in a Maryland flag.

"It was just your basic celebration in the street," said Sgt. Brian Lyntz of the university police. He noted that crowds were relatively small because the school is on spring break.

But some fans had a warning for police in case Maryland advances further in the NCAA tournament:

"It is going to be chaos," said Justin Auciello, a junior from Somerset, N.J. "Purely chaos."

Earlier this year, several fires were set on campus after Maryland upset rival Duke.

Even before Maryland's victory last night, students and alumni turned College Park bars into the scenes of raucous festivals.

"We can make history," Julie Allison, 22, from Northern Virginia, said inside A. J. Bentley's pub on Baltimore Avenue.

Some students on spring break trips gave up an extra night in Florida to get back to campus to watch the game with friends.

"You got to watch it with Terps fans," said Jen Boyd, 21, of Herndon, Va., who cut short her trip to Daytona Beach, Fla., to return to College Park.

Those students who remained outside - away from television sets - during the game appeared embarrassed when asked why they were not watching it.

"I just went to get some food," a hurried Rick Gasca, 24, said as he crossed Baltimore Avenue about 20 minutes after the game began.

Inside A. J. Bentley's, there was hardly a square foot of open floor space - much less a barstool - as the fans clustered around television sets, roaring play-by-play commentary in unison.

"What?" they yelled when a referee called a foul on a Maryland player.

"Yeah!" was the word of choice when Maryland scored.

"No!" they shouted, wincing, when Stanford scored.

With 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first half, with Maryland leading 34-28, Bryan Mitchell and his friends gathered around a television at the rear of the bar.

"I think they have a real shot," said the 27-year-old Maryland alumnus from Sykesville.

But as halftime approached, Nancy Brew, 44, was rubbing her hands together and pleading with Maryland players to score.

"Come on, Maryland, come on, Maryland," said Brew, as the Terps were up by seven with 50 seconds left until halftime. "You got to go into halftime 11 points up."

At halftime, with Maryland leading 42-32, the crowd began to roar.

"I'll take 10," Brew quipped.

Dutch Morley, who was a point guard for Maryland from 1978 to 1982, also watched the game at A. J. Bentley's. He said he hoped the victory would boost morale and assist in recruitment.

"It will certainly get the critics off our backs," Morley said.

As the second half began, the fans grew more confident as Maryland continued to expand its lead.

"If they win, the party will last all night long - I should say when they win" said Pat Ahearn, the manager of A. J. Bentley's.

The crowds inside the Cornerstone Grill on Baltimore Avenue began their celebratory chants while there were still several minutes left in the game. Debbie Berman, manager of the Cornerstone Grill, said she expected to go through 40 cases and 10 kegs of beer last night. "It should be interesting," Berman said.

After the game, Stu Ries, 43, predicted that Maryland will continue its winning streak.

"It is Maryland's year," Ries said. "After all, the Ravens won."

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