Women finish on high note

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy, but the GW women’s basketball team returned to its winning ways with strong finishes at Massachusetts Thursday and at home against Temple Sunday on senior day.

While GW (21-6, 14-2 Atlantic 10) had already clinched the A-10 West title and its seed in next weekend’s A-10 Tournament, the Colonials needed to beat UMass (6-21, 2-14 A-10) and Temple (18-9, 14-2 A-10) to prove they were still the conference’s team to beat. Had GW lost either game, it would have marked the first three-loss conference season for the Colonials since 1999, and Temple would have entered the A-10 Tournament with the conference’s best record.

“Even though we clinched the West maybe a week and a half ago, Temple was the best team in the East,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “So I think it was a big win because they have had such a great year. To beat them today, in our last game for the seniors, it was a huge win for us. We got some confidence back.”

That confidence wavered after the Colonials had their 11-game winning streak snapped by Duquesne last Sunday. Even before that defeat, GW had been struggling to put together complete games against inferior teams. With that poor play in mind, junior Anna Montaana said the Colonials wanted to finish strong.

“We just wanted to end the regular season with a win because of the seniors and because lately we haven’t played really good,” she said after Sunday’s game. “I think we did a really good job today and ended things right.”

The Colonials ended their regular season by using an 11-0 run over the game’s final three minutes to beat Temple 61-52 in an otherwise sloppy game.

The Owls had taken a 52-50 lead on free throws by Christena Hamilton, who led Temple scorers with 19 points, but they wouldn’t make another basket.

After a 30-second timeout by GW, the Colonials ran a play in which senior Cathy Joens came running up the baseline and then made a quick cut back toward the basket, where senior Marsheik Witherspoon found her for an easy lay-up. After a Temple miss, GW pushed the ball up to Joens, who stopped and popped a three from the left wing to give the Colonials the lead.

The game’s final minute and a half alternated between missed Temple shots and made GW free throws.

Said Joens of her play in that final stretch: “I wasn’t really thinking that it’s my last game at home. I was thinking more that we played so hard today and we just needed to come out with a win, no matter what it takes.”

For the game, GW shot 37 percent and Temple shot 33 percent, and that’s only because both teams improved in the second half. In the first half, GW shot 27 percent and Temple shot 23 percent. Both teams had more turnovers (19 each) than made field goals (17 for GW, 18 for Temple) and the game saw 41 fouls called (23 on Temple, 18 on GW).

“Temple defensively makes the game a little bit sloppy,” McKeown said. “It’ll look a little ugly, it’s not going to be fluid…so the nature of the game itself becomes really just a game of heart and emotion.”

It was the final game at the Smith Center for Joens, Witherspoon, Val Williams, Ugo Oha and Demetria Tipps. Joens and Oha both reached double figures with 16 and 12 points respectively, and Oha added nine rebounds and four blocks to her totals.

Joens, a fifth-year senior, said she enjoyed her days as Colonial but is ready to end her career.

“I’m gonna miss it, miss GW basketball, but five years is a while, so I’m ready to move on,” she said. “If I could stay here forever, I would. But I need to go make a living, do some work.”

The Colonials had to work to beat UMass, which outplayed GW to open the game and held a one-point lead at halftime.

Any thought of an upset was erased when the Colonials made their first five three-pointers of the second half while shutting down the Minutewomen offense. There were two stretches of four minutes during which UMass didn’t score a point, and GW ran away with the game, winning 70-51.

Joens led GW with 22 points and moved into third place on the school’s all-time scoring list. The Colonials will now prepare for the A-10 Tournament, which begins Friday in Philadelphia, Pa.

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