Owning an air-plane certainly can have its advantages. It dosen't hurt to have it loaded with 6-foot-plus basketball players.
While whipping through a brisk workout at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion yesterday, Wayland Baptist of Texas gave a convinving demonstration of how it was able to land one of the four berths in the AIAW national women's basketball tournament tonight.
Wayland Baptist (33-3) faces the University of Maryland (25-3) in the first semifinal game at 10 EST. Montclair State (24-6) meets UCLA (25-3) in the other semifinal.
The winner play for the national title Saturday at 11 p.m. (EST).
Tiny Wayland Baptist, which boasts an enrollment of nearly 1,000, has enough height, shooters, poise and tournament experience, not to mention the airplane, to make its first trip to the final four a successful one.
Appropriately named the Flying Queens, the Globe Trotter-like Texans are led by 6-foot-3 center Jill Rankin, a rugged rebounder, and 6-1 Marie Kochurek. Since all five starters can score, and do often, Rankin's team high 14.7-point average is misleading.
"Everyone can score so we don't have to depend on one person," said Wayland coach Dean Weese.
Maryland, which has been inconsistent at times, is playing as well asit has all season. The Terrapins rocked Tennessee, the No.1 ranked team, last week in the south regions playoff, 75-69. Maryland easily outran southern Connecticut, 93-53, to earn its first shot at the national title.
"Our rebounding and defense showed definite improvement last week," said Terp Coach Chris Weller.
Several of the Maryland players also were a bit more optimistic about their chances this week following their good showing in the south regionals.
"We knew we had to play well last week or our season was over right there," said Maryland forward Debbi Jones.
"We just have to keep it up two more games," said freshman guard Besty Bailey.
Keeping the tall Flying Queens off the rim will be Maryland's major problem. Rankin, Kochurek and 5-11 leaper Breena Caldwell get most of their shots inside the lane or on follow-ups.
Point guard Kathy Harston, at 5-10 and 5-11 wing guard Valerie Goodwin give the Texans an overwhelming height advantage. Wayland Baptist also is exceptionally quick.
Like Wayand Baptist, Maryland also features a balanced scoring attack. Terp Heiss is averaging 14.7 points, Kris Kirchner, Jane Zivalich and Bailey all are scoring at 12 points a game.
Maryland probably runs the best fast break in the nation. Heiss, the leading scorer and assist person in the school's history, penetrates very well and either puts up her two-handed jump shot or passes off to Bailey or Zivalich on the wing for easy jump shots. The Terps have had problems against the press and are prone to rush themselves into countries turn overs.
For Wayland Baptist, Rankin, Kochurek and Caldwell beat the boards for the easy shots while Harston and Goodwin shoot from downtown. The Flying Queens also have an edge in tournament experience, having been in the final 16 on four other occasions. But depth could be a problem.
UCLA has a home-court advantage in addition to an explosive offense. Three times All-America forward Ann Meyers, at 5-9 is the do-everything whiz for the Bruins. The senior leads her team in rebounds assists, steals and blocked shots and is third in scoring with an 18.5 average. Six-one freshman center Denise Curry is averaging 20.4 points and 5-4 Anita Ortega 18.7.
UCLA has played particularly well the last half of the season and should be inspppred by the friendly confines of
Montclair State's Caarol BBlazejowski has been on a tear throughout the playoffs. Averaging 38.5 points per game, "The Blazeezez" poured in 36, 38, 48, 34 and 50 as she led her team to the final four. Her 50 points ast week against Queen made her the all-time woman scorer in history with 3,118 points.
Aithough forward Pat Colasurdo and WWWanda Szcermeta both are good shooters and rebounders, it issss Blazejowski who mus carry Montclair.
Players from all four teams in the tourney have beennnominated for the Wade Trophy for the year's outstanding women's collegiate basketball player. The contenders are Montclair State's Blazejowski UCLA's Meyer and Ortega, Maaryland's Heiss and Wayland Baptist's Kochurek.