The GW women’s basketball team clinched the Atlantic 10 West division title and secured the top seed in the A-10 Tournament Sunday afternoon with a 70-63 win over La Salle in Philadelphia.
A-10 Player of the Week Cathy Joens led GW with 23 points, including five three-pointers, one of which put her team up by four with 2:56 remaining. Joens now has four A-10 Player of the Week awards this season.
“She’s fearless,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said of his leading scorer. “Even if she misses a shot, it doesn’t bother her. She’ll come right back.”
Junior Ugo Oha had 16 points and sophomore Anna Montanana added 10 for the Colonials (19-6, 13-1 A-10), who will host the A-10 Championship at the Smith Center if they advance to the final.
“If we get to host the championship game, there will be a great atmosphere here,” McKeown said Thursday night. “You shoot for that all year.”
Joens agreed, adding, “Hopefully we’ll have a big crowd. We play much better at home.”
La Salle did not make it easy for the Colonials to clinch the title, keeping the score close for much of the game.
“We played a little sloppy today,” Joens said after the game. “We were a little out of sync with each other.”
The teams battled hard in the first half and the Colonials took a slim 33-29 lead into the break.
GW took the upper hand in the second half, opening with a 10-4 run and eventually building a 50-35 lead with 14:10 remaining in the game. The Explorers would not back down, however, countering with a 25-11 run that shrunk the GW lead to one point, 61-60, with 3:29 remaining.
“We have to improve on putting teams away,” McKeown said. “We have to capitalize defensively.”
After Montanana’s jumper extended the lead to six with just less than two minutes left, La Salle senior Bonnie Randa hit her fourth three-pointer of the game to cut the lead to 66-63 with 46 seconds to play.
After Randa’s three, GW proceeded to put the game out of reach. A basket by junior Marsheik Witherspoon put the Colonials up five with 16 seconds on the clock, and two free throws in the final seconds sealed the GW victory.
“Today we struggled,” McKeown said. “La Salle played great and made some big shots. We showed a lot of fortitude. It says a lot about our kids.”
GW 89, Dayton 52
Thursday, Feb. 20
Thursday night’s game was not nearly as close as Sunday’s, as the Colonials cruised past visiting Dayton 89-52. The scoring balance was the same, however, as Joens led the team with 25 and Oha and Montanana followed with 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The Colonials combined deadly outside shooting and a well-run transition game to capture their 12th conference win, hitting 55 percent of their shots.
“I think it’s always fun playing transition,” Joens said. “When the ball is moving, everybody has the opportunity to score. It’s hard to focus on one specific player from the other team’s defensive standpoint.”
The Colonials jumped out to an early 16-6 lead and, after Dayton tied the score at 16, GW finished the half on a 26-10 run to go up 42-26 at halftime.
“When CJ runs, she brings the entire defense with her,” McKeown said. “Lindsey and CJ stretch the defense so far, it’s like having Jerry Rice and Tim Brown on each wing.”
The Flyers never recovered from the halftime deficit and the Colonials continued to pour on the offense, stretching the lead to nearly 30 points at the game’s conclusion.
McKeown also said the transition style that has helped the Colonials this season might change a bit come tournament time, as the team is improving its half-court offense.
“We’re getting better at grinding it out in the half-court,” McKeown said. “In March, there are going to be games that you’re going to have to win 52-50, not 90 to whatever.”
GW will have another chance to prepare for the upcoming A-10 Tournament Thursday at Duquesne at 7:30 p.m. before its regular season finale Sunday at the Smith Center.