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The Adventures Of Maggie

A continuing saga

Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page W10

Previously: When basketball coach Maggie Lonergan crawls into bed at 2 a.m. after a road game, her husband can hear her crying. The Catholic University women's team has lost again. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.

Episode 9

Maggie Lonergan bursts through the doors of Catholic University's athletic center and bounds up a flight of stairs, two steps at a time. "This is a nightmare," she says. A powerful winter storm is blasting through Washington, and it's taken the 32-year-old women's basketball coach more than an hour to drive from her home in Bowie to Catholic's campus in Northeast D.C. A bus is supposed to be here this afternoon to take her team and Catholic's men's team to York College in York, Pa., but the driver is somewhere south of Washington and probably won't arrive anytime soon.

(Photo by D.A. Peterson)

Maggie has already called her counter-part at York. Don't worry, we'll be

there, she says she told the other coach. Maggie has never postponed a game, regardless of the weather. She recalls an incident two seasons ago, when an opposing coach called off a game. The roads weren't even that bad, Maggie says, still angry. "They had a couple injured starters, and I suspect that they just didn't want to play us that day."

Soon time becomes an enemy. With each passing minute, the eventual start of Maggie's 6 p.m. game grows later. This is a major concern for Steve Howes, head coach of the men's team, whose 8 p.m. game is supposed to follow Maggie's. Howes declares that 9 p.m. is the cutoff. If his team has to start later than that, he would prefer to reschedule. Maggie cringes and says that changing the schedule would throw a wrench in her season, which has already suffered too many setbacks.

Maggie confers with Thom Manco, one of her assistant coaches. Maybe she should just offer Howes the early starting slot; she's willing to start as late as necessary. It's not an ideal arrangement, Maggie acknowledges, but it could end this whole talk of rescheduling.

Not a good idea, Manco says, shaking his head. "Our team doesn't handle change well," he says. "We always play first." Maggie sees his point, and they decide to sit tight. Maybe the bus will arrive soon.

It does. The drive up to York takes three hours instead of two, and Catholic arrives a little after 6 p.m. Maggie urges her players to dress quickly for the game. She does not, however, rush the tipoff. In fact, she lobbies York's athletic director for a longer warm-up period. She wants an extra 30 minutes. He offers five.

The game begins with a blitz-krieg of three-pointers. Catholic nails three early on, and York quickly returns fire with two of its own. York has yet to win a home game this season, but the Spartans match Catholic basket for basket through the second half.

Maggie stalks the sidelines in a frenzy, haranguing the referees. After a York player gets away with what Maggie believes is a travel, Maggie squats, waddles like a duck and shouts at the referee, "Oh, so now you're allowed to walk like this?"

With two seconds remaining in the game, Catholic leads by one. York inbounds the ball. The defense is there; York can't even get a shot off. As the buzzer sounds, Maggie thrusts two clenched, victorious fists into the air.

Tyler Currie

© 2005 The Washington Post Company