Parker, Lady Vols end drought, grab seventh national title

CLEVELAND -- Up the ladder she climbed, and when Pat Summitt

was within arm's length of the rim, she clipped the final strand of

the net.

In one motion, the coach swung the nylon above her head and

pumped her fist in the direction of Tennessee's hootin' and

hollerin' fans.

The nine-year drought is over.

The Lady Vols reign again.

Been There Done That


height=90 align=right alt="Pat Summitt">


Pat Summitt has already been to more NCAA title games than any other Division I coach. With Tuesday's win over Rutgers, Summit just enhanced her resume ... not that it needed any improvement.

Pat Summitt, Tennessee


John Wooden, UCLA


Mike Krzyzewski, Duke


Geno Auriemma, UConn


Leon Barmore, Louisiana Tech


Adolph Rupp, Kentucky


Dean Smith, UNC


Showing it was much more than a one-woman team, the Lady Vols

captured an elusive seventh national title Tuesday night, beating

Rutgers all over the floor in a 59-46 win to reclaim their

customary place above all other programs.

"We were a team that didn't want to be denied," Summitt said.

"We weren't going to leave here without a championship."

After five Final Four trips since 1998 ended without an NCAA

title trophy, the Lady Vols arrived in the home of the Rock and

Roll Hall of Fame intent on leaving with a shiny souvenir. And

after beating Rutgers at its own game with a swarming defense and

relentless rebounding, the Lady Vols have the rest of the country

looking back up at ol' Rocky Top.

"This," Candace Parker said, "is why you come to Tennessee."

Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer had hoped to win her first

title, 25 years after her first national championship game

appearance. Instead, Summitt won her seventh, 20 years after her


Parker scored 17 points to lead the Volunteers (34-3), but the

most outstanding player got plenty of help from Shannon Bobbitt and

a supporting cast of less-heralded teammates, who too often this

season stood around and watched her.

Not this time.

The Lady Vols wanted this title -- badly. Almost from the outset,

they outworked the young Scarlet Knights (27-9), who waited until

the final game of an improbable tournament run to show their


"Maybe we read the headlines or realized it was a national

championship game," Stringer said. "We looked like a deer stuck

in headlights. "

Close But No Cigar


height=90 align=right alt="C. Vivian Stringer">


C. Vivian Stringer can certainly rally a team to the NCAA Tournament, but she just can't seem to grab a title. The upside ... she's not alone.

Tournament WinsLosses in Title Game

Andy Landers, Georgia



C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers



Gail Goestenkors, Duke



Debbie Ryan, Virginia



After building a 16-point lead and then holding off a late push

by Rutgers, the Lady Vols spent the final 30 seconds dribbling out

the clock under the Rutgers basket. When the final horn sounded,

Dominique Redding flung the ball high enough to hit the scoreboard

as Tennessee's players, some in tears, danced at midcourt as

orange, blue and gold confetti fell on them from above.

"To win anything you have to be a tight team," Summitt said.

"They believed in each other and they all had one goal, to be here

in Cleveland and cut down the nets."

Rutgers, which knocked off No. 1 Duke earlier in the tournament,

was attempting to become the third straight first-time winner

following Baylor in 2005 and Maryland in 2006.

Summitt's 947th career win could be one of her sweetest. The

Hall of Fame coach -- joined on the floor afterward by her mother,

Hazel Head, in a wheelchair -- had captured six national titles from

1987-98, but had been shut out for No. 7 despite having some of her

most talented teams.

"This is not about winning No. 7," Summitt said. "This is

about this team winning their first."

Parker, too, had been looking to solidify her place among the

best to ever wear UT's orange and white. She knew only a title

would fulfill her legacy and allow her to be mentioned along with

Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Bridgette Gordon.

She belongs in their class now. And, despite talk she would skip

her final two years in Knoxville and turn pro, she's not going


"I'll be back," she said. "I'm coming back to Tennessee. I'll

be back wearing orange next year to hang the banner. We left our

mark at Tennessee."

Bobbitt scored 13 points -- 9 of them on three 3-pointers in a

lightning-quick span in the second half -- and Nicky Anosike, who

made her teammates sign a pact in January to reinforce their

commitment to winning it all, had 16 rebounds for the Lady Vols,

who had 24 offensive boards.

"I've always believed that rebounding wins championships,"

Summitt said, "and our defense was a difference maker."

Kia Vaughn had 20 points and 10 rebounds to pace Rutgers. But

the Scarlet Knights made far too many mistakes (18 turnovers) and

didn't have enough to challenge the Lady Vols down the stretch.

Several times, Stringer, back in the championship game for the

first time since leading Cheyney to the 1982 game, put her hands to

her head in disbelief at seeing unforced turnovers and lackluster


Stringer had called her senior-less squad of five freshmen,

three juniors and two sophomores, a "team of destiny."

As it turned out, only Tennessee will leave fulfilled.

"It hurts a lot," Stringer said. "But I still love this team.

This was no doubt the most rewarding year I've had."

Trailing by 11 at halftime, Rutgers, trying to become the

lowest-seeded team to win the women's tourney, settled down early

in the second half by matching Tennessee's intensity and closed to

35-28 on Vaughn's putback with 13:33 left.

That's when Bobbitt, a 5-foot-2 bundle of New York City

playground moves and energy, hit the first of three 3-pointers in a

span of 2:43. The first one came after two offensive rebounds by

the Lady Vols.

After a Rutgers turnover, Bobbitt drained another 3. As the

Scarlet Knights brought the ball up the floor, Bobbitt was waiting

for them. She forced a turnover that led to a layup by Alexis

Hornbuckle, and for the first time all evening, Tennessee's fans

sensed this might be the Lady Vols' night.

They were feeling even better one minute later when Bobbitt hit

another 3.

Still, the Scarlet Knights weren't going to quit on Stringer,

who earlier this season kicked her team out of their locker room

and took away anything with "Rutgers" written on it because she

felt they weren't playing up to the school's standards.

A 3-pointer by Matee Ajavon ended a 7-0 run that brought Rutgers

to 50-42, but Parker made six straight free throws in 37 seconds to

make it 56-44 with 1:08 left. As she went down the floor, Parker

looked at the bench where senior Sidney Spencer was crying, knowing

all the hard work during the offseason would end the best way


Seconds later, Stringer, who dropped to 0-6 in NCAA tourney

matchups against her close friend Summitt, began clearing her


Still, this tournament ended the same way it has nearly

one-third of the time since it started -- with Tennessee setting up

ladders to cut down the nets.

"This is something we all wanted from Day One," Parker said.

"I can't describe this feeling. It's amazing."