Women eye fourth straight West title

After losing at La Salle in earlier this month, the GW women’s basketball team has righted its ship and risen to the top of the Atlantic 10. The Colonials are on a five-game winning streak and are currently in a three-way tie for first place in the A-10 West.

All coach Joe McKeown’s club needs to do to win its fourth consecutive A-10 West title is take care of business in its final two games of the season, which appear very winnable on paper.

The Colonials (18-7, 11-3 A-10) will look to complete the season sweep of Duquesne (9-16, 4-10 A-10) Thursday evening at 7 p.m. GW will attempt to avenge the Feb. 4 loss to La Salle (11-14, 5-9 A-10) on Sunday at 2 p.m. on senior day, when Anna Monta?ana and Liz Dancause will be honored.

“We need to keep our intensity level up and make teams match us,” said McKeown, who said he is not taking the season’s final two games lightly.

As the A-10 season rolls into its final weekend, only A-10 East Champion Temple (22-3, 14-0 A-10) has clinched its seed in the A-10 Tournament, which GW will host at the Smith Center Mar. 4-7. With every team fighting for position, the Colonials control their own destiny – if they win out they will be the No.1 seed in the West.

Due to A-10 tiebreaker rules, the Colonials would hold the top spot if the season ended today, even though they are tied with Richmond and Xavier (both have 11-3 conference records). GW beat the Spiders twice and split with the Musketeers. After defeating Xavier earlier this season, Richmond will play the Musketeers for the second time Friday.

Coming into the season, not many people predicted GW would have a shot in the division, a sentiment McKeown acknowledged this week.

“I am really proud of the way we have handled adversity and how they have come together as a group,” McKeown said. “They have supported each other and have really become a team.”

Monta?ana has been an offensive force over the last three games, scoring 20, 26, and 27 points – the last two were career highs in wins over St. Joseph’s and Xavier.

Her recent success, McKeown said, stemmed from her ability to ignite the offense without taking the ball up the floor and running the offense herself.

“She is doing a great job playing without the ball when in earlier in the season she needed the ball,” McKeown said of Monta?ana. “The turning point was at Dayton earlier in the year because they played a box and one on her all game. She had to play without the ball and that really gave her the confidence that she didn’t need the ball to be effective.”

“When we lost the offensive firepower of Cathy Joens, Ugo Oha and Valerie Williams we needed someone who could fill that void,” McKeown added. “Her game is so well-rounded that she would rather make a pass that leads to a great lay-up rather than shoot the ball but we have told her that she is score.”

Monta?ana has been consistently moving up GW’s all-time rankings in several categories. She moved past Lindsay Davidson into third place all-time in career assists with 427 and also moved past Erica Lawrence for 14th place on GW’s all-time scoring list with 1,223 points.

With Monta?ana coming off screens and scoring, freshman point guard Kimberly Beck has been running the offense well. She leads the A-10 in assists and is only the second freshman in program history to have 100 assists in a rookie campaign.

“She has had an incredible year,” McKeown said. “She is a great competitor and now that were playing games where everything is on the line she understands the importance of her play and decisions.”

The Colonials have wins over North Carolina State University, Villanova University and two wins over Richmond, which could help them receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament – even without winning the conference tourney.

McKeown, however, does not want to entertain that possibility right now.

“Having been a coach in thirteen NCAA tournaments, if you win your tournament then there is no bubble, you’ve burst your bubble right off the bat,” McKeown said. “If you don’t win your tournament, you’re leaving it to numbers that can be interpreted in many different ways. There is no magic formula, because I have been on both sides of that bubble.”

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