A trip to women’s Final Four that won’t get off the ground

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I am at Gate 33 in the Reagan National Airport terminal with Angela Tilghman. It is past 2 p.m. She has been here since 10 a.m. I have been here since 10:30 am.

We came to catch a flight to Nashville to see if the Maryland women’s basketball team can continue its magic-carpet ride in the NCAA tournament.

Our original 11:55 a.m. flight to Nashville was canceled. The 4 p.m. flight they re-confirmed me on was canceled. Damaged cargo latch, said Ruby, the overwhelmed woman behind the counter. “They don’t have the part here,” she says.

I asked if I could can go to Home Depot for her. She didn’t smile.

Because the 11:55 a.m. and 4 p.m. flights are the same plane, two flights bit the dust.

Angela is confirmed on a 1:40 pm. I am the No. 1 standby. The plane is coming from JFK and is delayed 90 minutes already. It is now scheduled to leave Washington at 3:30 and get into Nashville sometime before 5.

The game starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, 5:30 local. It’s going to be tight.

None of the connecting flights they tried to put us on would have gotten us there before halftime at the earliest.

There are several angry Terrapins fans, one of whom said he saw the university president have to make alternate plans.

But none has more right to be furious than Angela Tilghman. She has been to every one of Terrapins’ games at Comcast Center this season.

She even went to the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., flying through ice, sleet and snow to root on Alyssa Thomas and the Terrapins.

“It was horrible,” she said. “Hotel had no heat, no food, no electricity.”

Angela is a former principal at an elementary school. She is now on disability. She has had season tickets to Maryland women’s games since 2007, she said.

She was there for many of the games in 2006 when they shocked Duke in the championship game. She has seen Kristi Toliver, Marissa Coleman, Crystal Langhorne, Thomas and others grow up right before her eyes.

“Lexie reminds me of Kristi Tolliver,” Angela says of this year’s freshman point guard, Lexie Brown, daughter of former NBA player Dee Brown. “She moves the ball real quick but she can also shoot it.”

Angela has gone through bouts of ecstasy and agony today, not knowing whether she will make it to see her team. “Never thought I’d be spending the whole day at the airport,” she says.

But she’s not mad. She’s full of hope and good thoughts, there hours before Maryland tried to knock off unbeaten Notre Dame in the national semifinals.

“Hey, look at this way,” Angela says. “If we can make it there, they have a chance to pull it off. If we can make it there, anything is possible.”

Then you find out the source of Angela’s hope or, depending on your perspective, a glutton for punishment:

She is also a Wizards season ticket holder. Has been since 2005. She sits next to The Washington Post’s Michael Lee’s seat in the press box.

“Don’t even get me started about that team. After they traded Jamison and Caron, I was heartbroken. But I like this team now. They got a chance to be very good.”

Angela will turn 58 on Wednesday. This is her birthday present to herself.

“Two minutes to boarding,” says the announcement for her flight.

“Good luck,” she says, fastening her Maryland basketball cap and straightening her Nationals windbreaker. “I hope you make it on standby.”

Me, too.

[Update: Wise did not make the flight.]

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post.
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