Work in Sports
Larry chokes up after ODU wins CAA final
Posted: Sunday March 12, 2000 01:06 AM
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The tears started as the final seconds ticked away on Wendy Larry's NCAA-record ninth consecutive Colonial Athletic Association tournament championship, but they had almost nothing to do with the final score.
"This is going to be a tough one to talk about," the Lady Monarchs coach said, her voice still choked with emotion 30 minutes after No. 14 Old Dominion won the CAA title with a 92-49 victory against North Carolina-Wilmington on Saturday.
"We give it up to an awful lot of people starting with Esther Benjamin and some of the family members we lost, some of the players that are injured and eight young ladies that decided that they were going to play their hearts out."
Benjamin, who played for Larry at Old Dominion, was killed in a car accident on Feb. 16, Sharron Francis and Nicole Bellinghausen lost family members within the ensuing two weeks and star center Lucienne Berthieu was injured and hasn't suited up for the last eight games.
But the eight Lady Monarchs remaining kept Larry's team flawless in nine years of CAA tournament play, and did it in vintage Old Dominion style to boot.
The Lady Monarchs (27-4) took control with one of their trademark defense-driven first-half runs to take control against the Lady Seahawks (18-12), using a 27-2 run to turn a 13-10 deficit into a 37-15 lead that ended the suspense early.
Then, it was on to their 102nd consecutive victory against CAA competition, and an NCAA record with the ninth tournament title in a row. Texas' women won eight straight Southwest Conference championships between 1983 and 1990.
"We don't talk about it," Larry said, adding that focusing on a record means not focusing on the game. "But I'm very proud of Old Dominion University, the Lady Monarchs basketball program and every player that is a part of that record."
The run included 12-for-13 shooting by the Lady Monarchs, 1-for-10 by the Lady Seahawks with five turnovers and 3-pointers by four players. And it was just a sign of things to come as Old Dominion finished 10-for-13 from 3-point range.
"If they can keep it going inside and outside like they did today, they are going to give a lot of teams problems," Wilmington coach Bernie Flax said after his team's first championship appearance in 16 years in the conference.
"It's the chances you don't get at your end that they convert into points at the other end that makes them so difficult to play against," he said.
The victory was Old Dominion's 13th in a row this season and 27th in as many CAA tournament games since the Lady Monarchs all but took over the league.
It also was their eighth straight since Berthieu, the two-time CAA player of the year and Lady Monarchs' scoring and reboounding leader, was sidelined.
Berthieu should begin practicing this week, Larry said after the game, and is expected to be ready to play some in the NCAA tournament next weekend.
In her absence, Old Dominion again spread the scoring among its eight healthy players, getting double-figure contributions from five. Okeisha Howard led the way with 26 points, including six 3-pointers in as many attempts.
"I thought my 3-point shot was kind of off when we were shooting around before the game," Howard said, looking at the stats. "I guess I was wrong."
Hamchetou Maiga added 20 points and eight rebounds, Sharron Francis had 11 points and Natalie Diaz had seven points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
The point total set a record for the CAA, eclipsing the 88 points Richmond scored in the 1990-91 game, the year before the Lady Monarchs joined the league.
The third-seeded Lady Seahawks, who had lost 11 straight CAA tournament games before this season, were led by Krissy Riggs with 16 points and Chandra Watkins with 11. Wilmington shot just 32.7 percent, making 16 of 49 from the field.