Rich. That's how
Tennessee's Lady Volunteers looked on Sunday as they made their last deposit of
the fiscal year—a 76-60 win over Auburn—at the NCAA Final Four drive-up branch
in Tacoma, Wash.
Bridgette Gordon, who's known for wearing 48 pieces of gold jewelry to class,
donned a few baubles before climbing a ladder to snip a piece of victory net.
The band played the team's fight song. Rocky Top, and Lady Vols coach Pat
Summitt and her bank-vice-president husband, R.B.. beamed. It was a fitting
payoff for a team that billed its seniors as money players and promoted itself
with a media guide that featured Lady Vols hanging out in a bank vault,
surrounded by money bags.
Gordon was a member of last year's Olympic championship team—she keeps the gold
she earned in a safe-deposit box, natch. She dominated her last college
tournament with fierce rebounding and deadly baseline shooting. In Friday
night's semifinals, Gordon made her first seven shots en route to scoring 24
points in a 77-65 defeat of Maryland. On Sunday, before a crowd of 9,758, she
bedeviled Auburn's box-and-one defense with 16 first-half points. When the Lady
Tigers pulled to within three in the second half, Gordon slammed the vault shut
with three straight jumpers. "You might notice that every now and then I
talk to myself," she said afterward, toying with one of the nine rings she
wears on her left hand. "When I saw that score, I told myself I had to do
finished with 27 points, wasn't the only hero for Tennessee. Center Sheila
Frost, who used to be castigated by Summitt for "hiding" in big games,
had 31 points, 25 rebounds and eight blocked shots in Tacoma. She also set the
tone of the final by stealing the first two passes to Auburn's star, center
Vickie Orr, who was held to 16 points. Dena Head, the Lady Vols' point guard,
scored 19 points, and guard Melissa McCray, the senior defensive specialist,
contributed six rebounds and 10 assists.
So omnipotent was
Tennessee in its two victories that most of the drama was packed into Auburn's
semi with Louisiana Tech, the defending national champ. Pregame hype had the
Lady Tigers seeking revenge for their two-point loss to the Lady Techsters in
last year's championship game, but Auburn coach Joe Ciampi insisted that his
team was merely "motivated" by that memory. Either way, the Lady Tigers
overcame an eight-point deficit in the second half to dethrone Tech by a score
of 76-71. Two days later, though, Ciampi again had to explain how it felt to
finish second. "Did you ever lose your dog?" he asked. "Or get hit
by a car? It's tough."
which has won the national title in two of the last three years, the only tough
thing was the lesson in economics that came with the championship. The Lady
Vols' trip to Tacoma cost $60,000, but the women's Final Four teams will get
only an estimated $35,000 apiece from the NCAA. By contrast, Tennessee's men's
team will receive $250,200 for losing in the first round, and each team
participating in the men's Final Four will take home a cool $1.25 million.
When asked on
Saturday to comment on this year's experiment of playing the women's tournament
in the same area as the men's Final Four, which was held 30 miles away in
Seattle, Summitt, the banker's wife, said. "We've been pleased with the
media coverage. If we could just get the men to share as much money as print,
it would be great."
Don't bank on it,
though. Tacoma proved that while Gordon and her teammates may have glittered,
the women are not yet playing for real gold.