Women's Hoops Seniors Grateful to End Home Schedule on Winning Note
Seniors deliver on second crack at final home appearance; Colonials face George Mason in A-10 Quarterfinals on Friday
By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications
The GW women’s basketball team broke its postgame huddle at midcourt Tuesday night and began the slow trek toward its locker room at the Charles E. Smith Center.
The Colonials had walked the same route with purpose three days earlier, eager to get downstairs and put a Senior Day loss to Richmond in the rearview mirror.
After a dominant 69-49 win over La Salle, they took their time to soak in the arena scene and groove along with the pep band’s victory tune. DJ Khaled’s ‘All I Do is Win,” of course.
GW controlled play on both ends of its home court in its Atlantic 10 Championship opener to take a resounding first step in what everyone hopes will be a weeklong journey.
The victory over the Explorers offered the perfect start to the conference tournament, particularly for a group of seniors grateful for another shot at a proper send-off in front of the Buff and Blue faithful.
Seniors Kelli Prange, Brianna Cummings and Camila Tapias took full advantage, combining for 43 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and seven steals to help the fifth-seeded Colonials earn a quarterfinal date with No. 4 George Mason on Friday afternoon at the Richmond Coliseum.
“This is our opportunity, and we want to take advantage of it and leave our hearts out there,” Tapias said after the 45th win at Smith Center of her GW career. “I think that’s what we did tonight, and that’s what we’re planning to do on Friday.”
It’s no surprise GW’s veterans were ready to deliver with the season on the line. They’ve been through their share of battles in earning three postseason berths in as many years to start their careers.
That experience proved useful in shaking off last Saturday’s 49-36 loss and locking in to focus on another A-10 Championship run.
Head coach Jennifer Rizzotti didn’t show her Colonials any tape of the regular season finale. Instead, she stressed how they could improve their offense going forward by being selfless with better passes and cuts leading to high-percentage shots.
Rizzotti’s squad responded by shooting 45 percent from the field with 19 assists against nine turnovers and producing more than enough offense to cruise to victory. It looked far more like the group that had won six of seven before the clunker against the Spiders.
“I think going into the A-10 Tournament that was great for us,” Prange said. “I know that sounds bad, but that loss, I think, really put into perspective that anybody can come and play you tough and you have to be ready to fight.”
Prange and Cummings were GW’s top two scorers Tuesday with 16 and 18 points, respectively. After a quiet opening quarter, both went on the attack and consistently found gaps in the La Salle defense with help from point guard Mei-Lyn Bautista (nine assists).
Then, there was Tapias, who posted nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and a career-high four assists.
The seniors combined for 15 points in the second quarter when GW took the lead for good with a run of 17 straight. Prange’s 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer extended the lead to 36-23.
They totaled 12 more in the third quarter, including Prange’s layup in the waning seconds off a nifty feed from Bautista to push the advantage to 17. GW's margin would grow as large as 29 in the final quarter, giving the starters the opportunity to watch the closing minutes from the bench.
“They really played like seniors today,” Rizzotti said. “If you’re going to win games in the postseason, your seniors have to show up. I thought all three of them showed up in a big way today, and I’m really proud of that.”
Those timely contributions came from a group that has seen both extremes in the A-10 Championship.
Prange, Cummings and Tapias danced on the Richmond Coliseum court and cut down its nets after championship victories in 2015 and 2016 before experiencing an early exit last season.
Rizzotti thought her team played tight amid expectations last time, so she’s tried to foster a more relaxed atmosphere. The Colonials looked plenty comfortable Tuesday putting together one of their most complete performances of the season and even more so once the band started its postgame jam.
Afterward, Cummings said she’s thankful for one more win in a building that's meant so much to her, but she’s tried not to think in those terms as her college career comes down the stretch.
Right now, she’d rather focus her attention on the next challenge.
“We’re just excited to get to Richmond and see what happens,” Cummings said. “It’ll be a good game (Friday). That’s all I can say. We’re ready.”
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