Maryland Coach Chris Weller gambled tonight and lost.
Second-ranked Cheyney State was leading by one point midway through the second half, then scored nine straight in four minutes while Weller watched, trying to decide whether to call a timeout.
"I think our crucial mistake was when I failed to call a timeout midway through the second half, when the lead puffed to 10 points," Weller said. "I shouldn't have let the lead go past five. That hurt us. Panic set in.
"I was going to call timeout about four points earlier but I gambled and didn't. It cost us dearly, I'm afraid."
The game had been close until then. The teams had been tied 23 times and the Terrapins had led five times before Cheyney State put it out of reach and won, 76-66.
Maryland forward Debbie Lytle's layup with 11:15 remaining cut Cheyney State's lead to 49-48. Then Cheyney State went to work: guard Karen Draughn made a 10-foot jumper, guard Rosetta Guilford sank a seven-footer, forward Debra Walker made a foul shot, all-America forward Valerie Walker tipped in a rebound and guard Yolanda Laney made a 10-foot jumper for the 58-48 lead with 7:39 remaining.
The Terrapins, intimidated by Cheyney State's defense, could respond only with turnovers and missed shots.
That's when Weller called time. But it was too late.
Maryland trailed by only two at halftime because Cheyney State shot but 33 percent. Walker, especially, was missing her shots, making only two of 10 that half. After intermission, she scored 16 points to lead all scorers with 20.
"Even though I wasn't hitting I was still confident enough to look for the shots," she said.
Walker got 25 points in a regular season, 67-51 victory at Maryland. For her, there was added incentive to beat the Terrapins again. "My freshman and sophomore years they knocked us out of regionals," she said. "We were extra psyched. We wanted to knock them out this time."
"She is the best in the country, that's why we are here today," said George Parker, a junior from Cheyney State who traveled six hours by bus with 200 other boisterous Cheyney State fans to watch the Wolves advance to the final.