No. 6 Maryland 68, No. 15 Georgia Tech 65

Alyssa Thomas did it all for No. 6 Maryland. She scored, she

rebounded, she blocked a key shot – and she delivered the Terrapins

another Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

Thomas scored a career-high 29 points and rejected a shot in the

final minute that helped preserve the Terrapins’ 68-65 victory over

No. 15 Georgia Tech on Sunday in the ACC tournament title game.

”What more can I say about the play of Alyssa Thomas?”

Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. ”Her will to win, I’ve never

coached a more competitive player.”

Lynetta Kizer had 11 points and Kim Rodgers added 10 to help the

third-seeded Terrapins (28-4) claim their league-record 10th

tournament title and second in four years. Kizer and Rodgers, two

of the Terps’ three seniors, were freshmen on the team that won the

2009 title.

”We made a promise to our seniors that we were going to send

them out with a ring and a championship,” said Thomas, named the

tournament MVP. ”To get them that was a special moment for

us.”

Tyaunna Marshall scored 18 of her 25 points in the second half

and Sasha Goodlett added 20 points for the fourth-seeded Yellow

Jackets (24-8), who were denied their first league tournament

title.

They had one last chance to force overtime after Anjale

Barrett’s missed free throw with 9.4 seconds remaining kept it a

three-point game. Georgia Tech called time with 5.6 seconds left

and got the ball to Marshall, whose contested 22-footer failed to

hit the rim as the buzzer sounded.

”It was just a play set up for our shooters,” Marshall said.

”Of course, they’re shooters, so (the Terrapins) are guarding them

heavy. Time ticking down, we had to get a shot off, the best shot

we could.”

That gave the league’s automatic NCAA berth to Maryland, which

became the lowest seeded team to win the tournament since Clemson

did it as a No. 4 seed in 1999.

The victory capped a pretty good week for Thomas – who was

selected to the all-ACC first team, then became just the second

sophomore in ACC history to earn its player of the year award. She

scored 18 points in both the quarterfinals and semifinals before

scoring the most points in an ACC championship game since Duke’s

Monique Currie finished with 30 in 2002.

”All of the other stuff wasn’t as important as getting the

championship,” Thomas said.

The Yellow Jackets gave themselves plenty of chances down the

stretch of this one, after erasing a seven-point deficit with an

11-2 run. They led 63-61 on Marshall’s free throw with 2:05 left,

but Kizer tied it on the Terps’ next trip downcourt by hitting a

layup in the post and Barrett added the go-ahead layup with just

more than a minute remaining.

Then came the sequence that may haunt Georgia Tech. Marshall

missed a jumper in the lane, Goodlett came up empty on a layup and

Chelsea Riggins had her tying layup blocked by Thomas with about 30

seconds left.

After Thomas made it a four-point game by hitting two free

throws with 22.7 seconds left, Marshall added two foul shots with

12.3 seconds remaining to pull the Yellow Jackets to 67-65. Barrett

hit her first free throw, but missed the second to give Georgia

Tech one final shot.

When it missed, Maryland had its seventh straight win and became

the first team to beat Georgia Tech three times in a season since

2003-04.

The title game had an unfamiliar feel because for the first time

since 1993 – when Virginia beat Maryland – none of the four North

Carolina-based schools reached the championship game. The top two

seeds, No. 5 Duke and No. 7 Miami, were knocked out in consecutive

quarterfinals, and that left the Terrapins as the clear favorite

before they had even played their opener.

They took advantage, rolling past Virginia in the quarterfinals

before dispatching Wake Forest in the semis to make it to their

13th championship game. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, took care of two

local teams on its way to its second title-game appearance, edging

North Carolina before routing N.C. State.

”I’m really proud of the way they came out night after night

and stepped up on the defensive end,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle

Joseph said. ”The way we play defensively, it’s really hard to

play consecutive games – back to back to back – and to do it at a

very high level is almost impossible. And I thought that, for three

days consecutively, my team stepped up and played defensively as

well as any team I’ve ever seen three nights in a row, playing 94

feet for 40 minutes.”

Early on, Thomas singlehandedly tried to will Maryland to the

title, scoring 13 of her team’s first 17 points. Then the Yellow

Jackets hit nine of 10 shots during a 5 1/2-minute stretch that

spanned the halves – including Marshall’s 3 at the halftime buzzer

that pulled them within 29-27.