You could see that in the Irish's much-anticipated rubber match in the semifinals against defending champion UConn, which had beaten its previous tournament opponents by an average of 37.5 points despite the absence of senior All-Americas Svetlana Abrosimova and Shea Ralph, who were injured earlier in the season. Notre Dame trailed the Huskies by 16 points in the first half, and no women's team had ever made up that big a deficit and won at the Final Four. Riley, though, scored 15 of her 18 points and added two of her five blocks after intermission as the Irish stormed back for a 90-75 victory.
On Sunday, Purdue jumped to an 11-point lead before Riley again got Notre Dame back on track. "She was unstoppable," said Boilermakers point guard Kelly Komara. "We threw three or four people at her, but nothing worked. She is an incredible player who can dominate a game."
In St. Louis, Riley continued to pile up hardware attesting to that fact. She added Final Four Most Outstanding Player, AP Player of the Year and Kodak All-America honors to a haul that already included Big East Player of the Year, Big East Defensive Player of the Year (her third), Academic All-America and Naismith Player of the Year. It's a shame that no one in basketball gives out awards for congeniality, hospitality and plain good manners, for she would win those too. Riley, the most intimidating presence in the women's college game, likes to bake cakes for her teammates on their birthdays and carries around a binder filled with fan mail and other correspondence she needs to reply to. "She answers all of it," said McGraw while watching Riley receive her Kodak award last Thursday. "I'll bet you anything she'll have a thank you note to the Kodak people in the mail by tomorrow morning."
By Sunday night Riley's hands—so bruised and scabbed from her battles in the paint that teammates were joking that she could be the "before" model in a hand-cream ad—looked as if they could use some lighter duty, like writing. As she cut the tape off her ankles, she could think of all kinds of people she needed to acknowledge for this weekend, for her college career. "I'd like to thank my family, my coaches," she began. "Oh, my gosh, there are so many."
Now that's a Hollywood ending.