His fairy tale
over, Giorgis was philosophical in defeat. "It's tough to lose," he
said, "but to lose to that team is really not that tough."
opponent, Ole Miss, had had plenty of experience being at the business end of a
Lady Vols victory. The Rebels were 7–30 alltime against Tennessee, the most
recent result an 81–69 Lady Vols' victory at Thompson-Boling Arena in
Knoxville. But upsets over defending champion Maryland and No. 3 seed Oklahoma
in the previous two games had since emboldened the seventh seed, which entered
the regional final averaging a robust 89 points for the tournament on almost 70
To avert a 15th
straight loss to the Lady Vols, coach Carol Ross said her Rebels would stick to
the script that had served them so well to this point in the tournament: no
script. "We don't game-plan a lot," she said. "We're not going to
deviate from what we do best, and we're not going to let another team dictate
how we play."
approach proved costly from the game's outset. When Ole Miss opened in a 2–3
zone, Shannon Bobbitt rained threes from both corners to trigger a 6–2
Tennessee lead. When the Rebels collapsed on Parker on the low block, the ball
moved out of the paint, then swung around the perimeter, then back inside to
Anosike on the opposite block for point-blank scoring opportunities. When Ole
Miss trapped full-court, a Lady Vol was usually streaking toward the hoop
unmarked. "They forced us to play man, which is our secondary defense,"
Rebels guard Ashley Awkward explained afterward. "Once we went into our
man-to-man, they took us out of our comfort zone. That's when they kept the
lead and dominated."
On offense Ole
Miss didn't fare much better. The layup buffet that the pressing and
fast-breaking Rebels had enjoyed all tournament was kiboshed by Parker, whose
presence in the paint recalled her formative years as an ace volleyball player
at Naperville (Ill.) Central High. She had a game-high five poster-worthy
blocks, highlighted by her one-handed snag of a Shawn Goff layup attempt.
Parker added 14 points in the first half on the way to a team-high 24. "She
played both ends of the floor equally," Anosike said of Parker, the Dayton
region's runaway Most Outstanding Player. "She really gained my respect
With only Awkward
and guard Armintie Price to carry them (they scored all but 18 of the team's
points), the Rebels went quietly into the night. Midway through the first, the
Lady Vols were well into their bench, with freshman reserve guard Cait McMahan
taking top hustle honors for drawing a charge in the paint on Price.
With 2:15 left in
the first half Spencer was the only Tennessee starter on the floor. At halftime
the Lady Vols' lead was 29. By the 12:49 mark of the second it was 39. "At
halftime we wanted to come out and start to chip away at the lead," Awkward
said. "But every time we scored, Tennessee had an answer. We did our best
tonight, but our best wasn't good enough."
The Lady Vols
didn't play more than four starters the rest of the way. By the time the final
buzzer sounded, every Tennessee player had subbed in. Afterward an effusive
Summitt would call her team's effort in a 98–62 win—the largest margin of
victory ever in a regional final—"without a doubt, our greatest offensive
game of the tournament."
Still, amid the
afterglow of making a 17th Final Four trip, there lingered a sense of
unfinished business. "We've been to Cleveland before and came back pretty
disappointed," said Parker of the Lady Vols' loss to North Carolina in the
2006 regional final in Cleveland. "I just want to make sure on that short
flight we return happy."