Grow­ing pains ac­com­pany Mary­land’s maul­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY DAVID GINS­BURG

Mary­land proved again this sea­son that it is clearly one of the na­tion’s elite women’s bas­ket­ball pro­grams. The goal next year is to be the best. An­other strong sea­son for Mary­land and coach Brenda Frese ended Tues­day night with an 80-49 loss to Notre Dame in the round of eight. The Ter­rap­ins hung with the top-seeded Ir­ish for the open­ing eight min­utes, but in the end the Ir­ish were too tal­ented and had far more ex­pe­ri­ence.

The de­feat did lit­tle to mar an ex­cep­tional sea­son for a team with only one se­nior starter and a half-dozen fresh­men and sopho­mores, in­clud­ing At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas.

“I told the team in the locker that I ap­pre­ci­ate the jour­ney and the ride that we got to spend this sea­son,” Frese said late Tues­day. “I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter team in terms of how com­mit­ted ev­ery­one was this sea­son.”

Mary­land’s three se­niors won’t soon for­get their final col­lege game — no mat­ter how hard they try. For­tu­nately, Kim Rodgers, Lynetta Kizer and An­jale Bar­rett will have plenty of other mem­o­ries to cher­ish when they look back on their time in Col­lege Park.

And, per­haps in the near fu­ture, the trio will watch their for­mer teammates make an­other run at the ti­tle.

“We had a phe­nom­e­nal sea­son,” Rodgers said. “We had a lot of good wins this year, a lot of come­back wins. We have been to two Elite Eights, two ACC cham­pi­onships, and we are cham­pi­ons in our own right. It’s not fun sit­ting here and say we didn’t get to the Final Four, but we ac­com­plished a lot. We are leav­ing a lot of good things for the un­der­class­men to move for­ward with next year.”

Mary­land (31-5) fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son ranked fifth in the na­tion. The Ter­rap­ins won the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence ti­tle, earned a sec­ond seed in the NCAA tour­na­ment and jus­ti­fied that po­si­tion by win­ning three games — in­clud­ing rous­ing come­back vic­to­ries over Louisville and de­fend­ing cham­pion Texas A&M.

Next year could be spe­cial for Mary­land. Bar­rett was the only se­nior starter in a lineup that in­cluded three sopho­mores. Thomas, a 6-foot-2 sopho­more, emerged as a force on both ends of the court, sopho­more Lau­rin Mincy played ex­cep­tion­ally well in her first full sea­son back from knee surgery and 6-3 ju­nior Tianna Hawkins helped make Mary­land one of the best re­bound­ing teams in the na­tion.

The ex­pe­ri­ence that was lack­ing this sea­son shouldn’t be a fac­tor in 2012-2013.

Af­ter watch­ing the Ter­rap­ins rally from 18 points down to beat his Texas A&M team, Ag­gies coach Gary Blair said of Mary­land: “They’re go­ing to be in the Final Four ei­ther this year, or next year or the fol­low­ing year. They’re go­ing to be back. Cause when you look out there, you get in­tim­i­dated just watch­ing them warm up be­fore the ball­game.”

The Ter­rap­ins have been to the NCAA tour­na­ment eight times in Frese’s 10 years at the school, five times as a No. 2 seed. This jour­ney was high­lighted by that 81-74 win over Texas A&M, but the fu­ri­ous come­back played a part in the Ter­rap­ins’ in­abil­ity to rally against the Ir­ish.

“I felt like our en­ergy and ef­fort was spent in the game be­fore,” Frese con­ceded. Yet the Ter­rap­ins never quit. “We didn’t stop fight­ing to the end,” Bar­rett said. “Our motto is fight to fin­ish. It didn’t mat­ter if we were down 30, 40, or 50 we were go­ing to go down fight­ing. And that’s what we did.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A sub­dued Mary­land coach Brenda Frese (left) and Ter­rap­ins play­ers watch the pro­ceed­ings in Tues­day night’s 80-49 loss to Notre Dame in the Elite Eight. Mary­land, with just one se­nior, has a promis­ing fu­ture with a half­dozen fresh­men and sopho­mores.

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