Women rise, then fall in North Carolina

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-Some mountains are just too steep to climb.

The No. 9 seed GW women’s basketball team fought until the end but could not overcome No. 1 seed North Carolina Tuesday night. The Colonials struggled offensively at the Dean E. Smith Center and were bounced from the NCAA Tournament 71-47.

After defeating Mississippi 60-57 in the first round of the tourney Sunday, the Colonials (23-9) shot just 25 percent from the field and struggled against the taller and more athletic Tar Heels (29-3). Camille Little swarmed senior Anna Monta?ana, holding her to just four points on 1-for-9 shooting in her final collegiate game.

Monta?ana finished her career at GW with 1,332 points, 746 rebounds, 453 assists and 213 steals. She is the only player in Colonials history to achieve 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists. It was also the final game for senior Liz Dancause, who was held scoreless.

“This year was so special because no one even thought we could do well, or even have a winning record, nevermind make the NCAA Tournament or the A-10 Championship game,” Dancause said.

“That’s what I love about this team, even though we were young, these girls fought so hard and stuck with us,” she added.

GW contained the Tar Heels through the opening 10 minutes of the first half, but slowly, the Heels began to open up a lead and at halftime led 35-22. The Colonials’ poor shooting and lack of interior presence allowed UNC to pull away in the second half, extending its lead to as many as 30 points.

“We had it down to 13 or 14 with about eight minutes left. I thought we could make a little run,” head coach Joe McKeown said. “But we just couldn’t. We couldn’t put the ball in the basket or get the looks we wanted. I was just really proud of the effort out there, nobody quit.”

Senior Jessica Simmonds, who was plagued by foul trouble throughout the game, finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Sophomores Kenan Cole and Corrine Turner were the only GW players to finish in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Ivory Latta led the Tar Heels with 17 points, while Nikita Bell had 16 points and nine rebounds. LaToya Pringle finished with six of the Tar Heels 10 blocks.

Harris emotional after loss

Senior Tylon Harris, whose basketball career at GW never got off the ground due to injury, attended the season’s final press conference.

“My four years here have been magnificent, and I really mean that from the bottom of my heart. I tore my ACL before even coming here, then I re-tore it again my freshman year, I just kept rehabbing and rehabbing and I just couldn’t get back … I just couldn’t back,” Harris said with tears in her eyes. “This year really showed what the heart of GW is and what it means to be a player at GW. It means never to give up … and yes we lost, but nobody ever gave up and that’s being a player at GW that’s being a part of GW. You will never ever see anyone give up here because that’s what coach McKeown is about, that’s what his assistant coaches are about, and that’s what the whole administration is about.”

GW 60, Mississippi 57

The Colonials’ 60-57 first round NCAA Tournament victory over Mississippi Sunday night helped define the term “March Madness.” The Colonials trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half but used a nine-minute, 19-2 run down the stretch to edge Ole Miss at the Dean E. Smith Center.

“I didn’t expect to get down by 14 … but we never quit and we played hard,” McKeown said. “Our team exemplifies a blue-collar team, we are not always pretty but we find a way to win.”

“When things started rolling backwards we just couldn’t stop it,” Mississippi coach Carol Ross said.

The Colonials trailed 34-33 at halftime, but came out sluggish in the second, as Mississippi (19-11) went on a 12-0 run after the break. GW did not score its first points of the second half until the 14:26 mark. With less than 10 minutes remaining, things looked bleak for the Colonials, as they trailed 55-41 and had scored just eight points in the first 10 minutes of the second.

Then, McKeown decided it was time to shake things up. He inserted sophomore Amanda LoCascio and freshman Sarah-Jo Lawrence into the game. The two bench players ignited GW, as LoCascio nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to nine before Lawrence rattled off six consecutive points to pull the Colonials within three. With just 2:13 remaining, LoCascio drove the lane and was fouled. She connected on both free-throw attempts to give GW the lead 56-55.

After senior Anna Monta?ana’s fade-away jumper put the Colonials up three, Ole Miss ended a nine-minute scoreless drought to make it a one-point game, 58-57. Then, after a missed GW shot, Mississippi had the ball out of bounds with just 12.1 seconds remaining, down one point. In perhaps the biggest play of the night, freshman Kimberly Beck tipped the errant Ole Miss inbounds pass to Monta?ana, who was immediately fouled.

She stepped to the line and calmly hit both free throws to put GW up three points. With just nine seconds remaining, the Lady Rebels had one chance, but an errant three-point shot barely grazed the rim as time expired.

GW clamped down on defense, not allowing a point for almost nine minutes during their late run.

“I think we understood if we didn’t pick it up we were going home,” Beck said.

Beck’s defense and court leadership was key in the run, as she finished with nine points and four assists. LoCascio and Lawrence combined for 13 points and helped lead the Colonials to victory.

“We were struggling and she just came in and turned the game around,” McKeown said of LoCascio’s performance. “She hit a big three for us and played with a lot of poise.”

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