Presidents’ Weekend held mixed results for the women’s basketball team. The Colonials (18-7, 11-3 Atlantic-10) fell 67-63 Sunday to visiting Richmond two days after defeating La Salle 67-49. Sunday’s loss snapped an 11-game home winning streak dating back to Dec. 7. It was also the Spiders’ first victory over the Colonials since 1982 and in 12 matchups.
“(Beating GW was) something the seniors felt very strongly about at the beginning of the year. It’s been a long, long time coming,” Richmond first-year coach Michael Shafer said. “We played them tough down there at our place. We competed, we just didn’t execute very well. It was very important for us to come up here and execute our game plan and we did.” GW defeated Richmond on Jan. 29 in Virginia.
“The second half we played today was just a struggle, especially on defense, we just struggled,” Colonials coach Joe McKeown said Sunday.
Richmond (12-14, 7-7 A-10) entered Foggy Bottom after upsetting No. 22/23 (USA Today/Associated Press) Temple and A-10 Conference leader Charlotte in its previous two games. The momentum was too much for the Colonials to handle despite a late effort that cut an eight-point lead down to four with a minute and a half remaining.
“We’re a late-blooming basketball team and we get to the Temple game, which was a game where we just hung until the very end and then made a play to win at the end,” Shafer said. “Charlotte, we just built off that confidence and tonight was just an overflow of thinking ‘hey, we’ve done it twice, why not do it on the road.'”
GW lost one of its top shooters late in the first half when sophomore Kenan Cole sustained a knee injury after colliding with a Richmond player. She did not return to the game. “Not having her in the second half probably hurt us. We’re so used to having her on the floor,” McKeown said.
The Colonials shot 27.3 percent from the foul line, including a four-for-16 showing in the first half. The team connected on only six-of-22 free throws in the entire game, with senior Jessica Simmonds, who has been nursing a wrist injury, making just one of her 10 attempts. She ended the game with 13 points.
“I think (the missed free throws) affected (the game) quite a bit,” Shafer said. “At the same time, them not hitting free throws was big, but they were able to get some rebounds off the missed free throws, so they were getting the second chances. But it definitely played a big part in the basketball game.”
“That’s basically the game. If we make them in the first half, we’re probably up by 15 at half time, and then we blow Richmond out of the game, but instead we breathed life into them by missing all those free throws,” McKeown said.
Senior Amber Petillon led the Spiders with 21 points and eight rebounds. Senior Aracela Gil hit three late three-pointers and four on the game, despite her 5-foot-3 stature, to add another 20 points. Shafer credited Petillon’s early efforts and Gil’s clutch shooting for the Spiders’ victory.
“(Petillon) carried us in the first half,” Shafer said. “It wouldn’t have even been a close game. To our kids’ credit, they were able to move the basketball to find Amber, and then when they got her the ball, she did what she knows how to do and that’s turn and score. I could feel momentum shifting to GW (late in the game) and then Gil came up big. I’ve seen that from her before. I think it deflated GW a bit and it gave us a little bit of extra confidence.”
Sophomore Kim Beck shot seven-for-13 from the floor with three treys to end the game with 17 points for the Colonials. Ten of her points came in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Beck had eight points earlier in the weekend against La Salle. The Colonials held a 25-2 series edge entering the matchup; however, the Explorers (11-13, 7-6 A-10) won the team’s previous meeting last February, in a matchup that ended a 24-game GW winning streak in the series.
Junior Whitney Allen led GW with 13 points and 11 rebounds, including her first successful career three-point shot. Freshman Jessica Adair recorded her second career double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore Sarah-Jo Lawrence also added 12 points.
Sophomore Carlene Hightower had a game-high 16 points for the Explorers. Junior Jenna Graber had 12 points and senior Davineia Payne grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Colonials now travel to Philadelphia to face the Owls Feb. 24. GW defeated Temple at home on Jan. 11 58-41. They will then return home to face Charlotte Feb. 26 in their regular-season finale. It will be the two programs’ first ever meeting, as Charlotte joined the A-10 this year.