Terrapin time

April 06, 2006

The starting team boasted two freshmen and no seniors. Judged underdogs by the basketball establishment and playing far from their home court in College Park, they trailed by as many as 13 points and faced a dominating center and a veteran Duke squad that beat them twice during the regular season. But thanks to a freshman point guard, 5-foot-7-inch Kristi Toliver, who lofted a three-point shot over Duke's 6-foot-7-inch star player to force overtime, the Maryland Terrapins won a national championship in women's basketball on what seemed like pure determination.

What a second-half rally, what a game and what a team. Maryland is now one of only four schools in the country to win a Division I national championship in both men's and women's basketball (and Duke isn't one of the other three). How sweet is that? And to get there, the Terrapin women had to stage the second-biggest comeback in NCAA championship game history. Such a moment could not have been imagined just a few years ago.

For March Madness couch potatoes, the women's championship game was an antidote to the blowouts that distinguished the men's Final Four this year. Women's basketball is on the rise nationally, and the Terps' historic victory can only bring greater attention to the sport.

Yet this same team drew just 2,208 fans to a January home game. Surely, that won't happen again. In four years, coach Brenda Frese has turned a so-so program into the nation's best. "Overtime is our time," Ms. Frese pronounced afterward. Thanks to her team's efforts, that's something Maryland fans everywhere can now savor.

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