MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

The Maryland women’s basketball team concluded one of the strongest seasons in its history and, perhaps, the most impressive season in the career of head coach Brenda Frese Monday night, even though they lost, 86-75, to undefeated, top-seeded and defending national champion South Carolina in the South Region final in Greenville, S.C.

The Terps, who were the No. 2 seed in the region, gave the Gamecocks everything they wanted, but they are defending champs for sound reason. They were simply too big and too many for Maryland to keep up with, despite the Terps’ leading, 21-15, after the first quarter.

It didn’t help, either, that Maryland, a team that has been able to get to the foul line all season, watched (literally) the tables be turned on the them, as they were whistled for 26 personal fouls to South Carolina’s 12, which, let’s just say, we’ll allow to speak for itself.

That said … Maryland’s two best players sat the entire second quarter with three fouls each. Maryland’s leading scorer fouled out early in the third quarter and its center and best post defender fouled out shortly thereafter.

Despite this, the Terps scored 75 points, shot 50% from the field and 50% from the three-point line.

Entering the game, according to ESPN Stats & Info, teams with 75 points on 50% from the field and 50% on three-pointers were 123-2 in the NCAA Tournament – women’s and men’s – since 2000.

But, alas, a Terps fair chance for a win just wasn’t in the cards … nor on somebody’s office bracket.

If you watched the game, you know – the phantom block call on Abby Meyers along the baseline? You’re not going to see a worse call than that in a game that doesn’t have Coach Kry on the sideline.

South Carolina has a great team, but what happened to Maryland was a horrible look for NCAA women’s basketball. The Terps never had a chance to compete; yet, still, they competed their hearts out. It was a proud moment for Maryland, but a shameful one for the NCAA.

(Not to outdo itself, though, the NCAA announced on Thursday that two of the officials involved in this game earned the right to officiate this weekend’s Final Four.)

Maryland out-willed the elements in keeping itself in the game, and that’s something for all Terps fans to be pretty proud of. That this team reached the Elite Eight and was playing the best team in the country for a chance to reach the Final Four, and taking it to them on what amounted to be a home court for them is amazing.

Consider: Almost a year ago to the day, five players, power forward Mimi Collins, shooting guard Taisiya Kozlova, shooting guard Channise Lewis, point guard Ashley Owusu and center Angel Reese, who produced an All-America season at LSU this season, all decided to transfer. On top of that, shooting guard Katie Benzan and power forward Chloe Bibby graduated, meaning Maryland lost 85% of its offense.

Yet Frese had her Terps one game away from the Final Four.

What a fun season, and what a fun and sublime player Diamond Miller is, and now will be in the WNBA, as she is likely to be one of the top picks in this year’s draft. She has proven herself to be one of the greatest and most beloved Maryland players in history.

Sophomore guard Shyanne Sellers was phenomenal as well, and is likely to follow the path of Miller in her own way and make herself one of Maryland’s all-time greats.

Just as the team itself started slow this season, so, too, did Sellers; yet, in a season of discovery, the team and Sellers discovered themselves and each other and really haven’t had the chance to look back.

It was a wonderful season.

The future is bright at Maryland for both the women’s and men’s programs, as the big news from the men’s team is Jahmir Young, the Terps’ best player and a gift from the portal via Charlotte and DeMatha (seems Hunter Dickinson may have been right all along) will return to College Park for his final year of eligibility.

On top of the outstanding recruiting class Coach Kevin Willard is bringing in, led by Virginia and Washington Post All-Met Player of the Year DeShawn Harris-Smith of Paul VI (among others), things are looking pretty cheerio for University of Maryland basketball these days.

As the late, great Bill O’Donnell, who was a Syracuse man, but who carried true affection for the Terps, might have said, “It’s been a good week, everybody.”

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT