CHAMPIONS! GW Wins A-10 Title
Colonials Go Dancing for Third Time in Four Seasons
March 4, 2018
RICHMOND, Va. - When GW women's basketball was picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, a quiet fury burned inside the Colonials. For a team that won back-to-back Atlantic 10 regular-season and tournament titles in 2015 and 2016, and earned a share of the regular-season title last season, the heart of a Champion should never be questioned. Fast forward to March Madness 2018, and GW is going dancing again as the automatic qualifier from the Atlantic 10.
GW returns to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four seasons while Head Coach Jennifer Rizzotti, a National Champion as a student-athlete at UConn, returns to the Big Dance for the first time since 2011 when she led Hartford to the America East title.
The road to the title for GW was paved with a defensive grit that just wouldn't yield. After opening the tournament with a home win against La Salle in the first round by yielding just 49 points, the Colonials went on to vanquish George Mason for the third time this season on Friday in a 64-59 win. Rizzotti and company then game-planned a masterful plot to thwart top-seeded Dayton, getting revenge for two previous losses to the Flyers this season, with a suffocating defensive effort that allowed just a .327 field goal percentage in yesterday's semifinals. By comparison, the Championship Game was a breeze.
Senior Brianna Cummings was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player while juniors Mei-Lyn Bautista and Kelsi Mahoney earned All-Tournament Team honors. After a first quarter in which GW only briefly trailed, and the teams found themselves deadlocked on every even number after trading baskets to reach 10-10, the Colonials slowly turned the vice to gradually turn the game into a rout. A 16-10 GW lead after the first quarter gave way to a 32-24 halftime edge. When the Colonials led 49-37 going into the final ten minutes, while Rizzotti coached until the final buzzer sounded, the final stanza in the masterpiece was essentially a victory lap as GW led by 20 with three minutes left.
Cummings earned her accolades with a standout Championship performance, with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists to stake a claim as the premier two-way player in the conference. She averaged 16.0 points per game on 46 percent shooting while averaging five rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals in the four-game title run.
Mahoney's breakout season keeps rolling after the junior marksman drained 4-of-6 three-pointers en route to her 12 points, while also grabbing four rebounds. Her sniping prowess was evident in all four games of GW's championship journey as she sunk a blistering 54 percent (14-of-26) of her treys in the tournament.
Then there was Bautista, who made it easy for her teammates. The junior point guard was flawless again in the finale, dishing seven assists against nary a turnover in what has been a clinic in point God play. The New York City floor general finishes with Atlantic 10 Championship with an unworldly 26-to-0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Senior Kelli Prange and freshman Neila Luma were also worthy of All-Championship accolades, but for fairness sake to the rest of the conference, a team of five Colonials wouldn't look right. Prange dropped in 14 points and grabbed five boards in her 23 minutes off the bench, showing why she was a runaway choice for A-10 Sixth Woman of the Year. Meanwhile, the frosh Luma had a dominant game in the paint, with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go with her team-high six rebounds.
GW will learn its NCAA Tournament opponent and date/time of the First Round match-up on Selection Monday, March 12th. The tournament begins on March 16th at campus sites of the Top 16 teams in the bracket.
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