There was an aura of deja vu surrounding tonight's Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women's Region 1B basketball final.
For the second time this season, Maryland lost to Rutgers -- this time 80-75 -- and for the second straight year a loss in the regional final did not end the Terrapin season.
Maryland still will play in the first round of the AIAW national tournament, meeting the winner of the Valdosta State-Mercer game in a South Sectional semifinal Friday in Cookeville, Tenn.
Seventh-ranked Rutgers (27-3) will play Tennessee, which lost, 74-72, to topranked Old Dominion last night, in an East Sectional semifinal Friday at Fordham University.
"I think we can beat any team in the nationals and I also think we can be beaten by any," said Terp Coach Chris Weller. "We got blown out in the regional final last year (by Montclair State) and still went on to do pretty well."
The Terps regrouped in 1978 to reach the final, where they lost to UCLA.
The sixth-ranked Terps (21-6), whose seven-game winning streak was snapped tonight, made a frantic comeback bid in the waning moments. But it fell short as the young, composed Lady Knights scored seven of the game's final nine points.
Freshman forward June Olkowski scored 10 of Rutgers' last 11 points, making four free throws and a layup in the final 1:07 to help break a 73-73 tie.
Maryland trailed, 67-58, with 6 1/2 minutes left before Kris Kirchner, Myra Waters and Jane Zivalich went to work.
Kirchner hit a 15-footer, Rutgers was called for traveling and Zivalich dropped in two free throws to make it 67-62. Then Olkowski sandwiched a 12-footer and a driving layup around Waters' drive to make it 71-64.
Zivalich stole the ball. Debbie Stewart put in an offensive rebound with 3:27 left and Waters sank one of two free throws 31 seconds later. That pulled Maryland to 71-67.
After another Rutgers bucket, Zivalich got her turn. She stole a pass for a driving layup and hit a 15-footer after Waters' steal. Zivalich then drew a charging foul on Patty Coyle and tied the score at 73 with two free throws with 1:32 left.
But the Terps started fouling and Rutgers got five points on free throws to escape with the victory. The Lady Knights had beaten Maryland by nine points their first meeting this season.
Maryland led by as many as five points in the first half, but committed three turnovers on its last three possessions to allow Rutgers to take a 37-33 halftime lead.
"If we had maintained our composure better at the end of the first half, we wouldn't have had to play catchup in the second," said Weller. "We played pretty well in the final half."
Weller refused to blame Maryland's at times lackadaisical play on the automatic tournament berth the Terps secured with Friday's win over Cheyney State. Instead, the coach took the blame.
"I was emotional on the bench," said Weller. "I was that way because I was mad at Kris (Kirchner) complaining about the officials' calls. She should have taken it in stride and kept her mind on the game."
It appeared that Kirchner's ire toward the officials was well deserved. The 6-foot-3 sophomore must have thought she was wearing a ladder on the back of her jersey: no sooner would she grab a rebound than either Olkowski or Kathy Glutz would climb her back to knock loose the ball.
Olkowski, who scored 30 points, was called for only one foul. Kirchner led Maryland with 22 points; Zivalich had 10 points, seven assists and four steals.