Just over four minutes into the Maryland women's basketball team's 77-75 win over Nebraska on Sunday, senior guard Kristen Confroy knocked down a 3-pointer, giving Maryland a seven-point lead. It was a standard action for Confroy, who's made second-most made 3-pointers in program history, but Xfinity Center reacted like it wasn't.
Similarly, when senior guard Ieshia Small swished a jump shot halfway through the third quarter, the arena launched into louder-than-usual applause, despite Small's consistency as a mid-range jump shooter.
Maryland fed off its supportive arena on Senior Day to stave off a late Nebraska comeback and give Confroy and Small a victory in their final regular season game with the program.
"I was just soaking it all in," Small said. "The crowd was amazing. Hearing them saying 'defense' gave us motivation to get stops and everything."
Small, who cried during the pregame ceremony honoring her, held the ball in the dying moments of the game before throwing it into the air as time expired.
From the pregame ceremonies to that moment, the crowd remained loud and engaged.
On one of Maryland's most important defensive possessions, during which forward Stephanie Jones stuffed Nebraska guard Jasmine Cincore with 14 seconds remaining, the "defense" chants Small mentioned were deafening.
Confroy said coach Brenda Frese set the tone before the contest when she told her team "don't be sad it's over, be happy that it happened."
"You could feel the energy and the effort in our team," Confroy said. "It was an incredible way to go out. A little closer than I'd like, but I'm just so proud of this team and how we came together to pull out a tough win."
Confroy finished with six points from two 3-pointers and nine rebounds, while Small added five points, five rebounds and three assists off the bench. Neither had the biggest impact on the outcome, but their presence was enough to rally their teammates.
Jones scored Maryland's go-ahead points and made the huge defensive stop on Cincore. Guard Kaila Charles notched a team-high 19 points and 11 rebounds and made four free throws in the final 2:05 to aid Maryland's winning effort.
Jones and Charles said the Terps were energized by playing for their seniors, especially after losing their previous three games.
"We wanted to end [Small and Confroy's] regular season on a good note," Charles said. "We've been in a drought, but we put our heads down this week and put our bad games in the past, learned from our mistakes and went out there and played for them, and for each other."
Frese said one of the reasons coaches enjoy their jobs is to watch the growth of leadership in their players.
Small transferred from Baylor for her final two seasons of eligibility and established herself as one of the team's go-to reserve players. Confroy played all four years at Maryland, as a starter for the majority of three, and became one of the program's greatest 3-point shooters.
Frese said that while they want the seniors to stay around longer as the postseason nears, Confroy and Small are ready to take on what's next.
"I know once it's my time to go, I know I can still pick up the phone and call somebody and be like, 'Hey, how you doing?'" Small said. "I don't look at them as friends anymore. My teammates, they're like my sisters and staff, I call them family now. The whole process of being here has just been amazing."