GW tops Charlotte 69-65 to win A-10 regular season title

With only one senior on this year’s women’s basketball squad, the ceremony paying tribute to class of 2006 was short but sweet. Senior Jessica Simmonds took center court to be honored for her two seasons as a Colonial before Sunday’s game against Charlotte.

Just two hours later, Simmonds had completed her regular season as a Colonial in an 11-point performance that helped defeat the 49ers 69-65 to secure the regular-season A-10 championship and earn the top seed in next week’s Atlantic 10 Tournament.

For Simmonds, a win in the team’s regular season finale carried personal significance.

“This was my last game in the Smith Center, so it was very special to me,” she said. “Everything that comes with being a George Washington Colonial I’m going to miss, so I just cherished it. I had to come out with a win here today.”

Simmonds’ goals go beyond just the victory over Charlotte (20-7, 13-3 A-10).

“My hope this year is to get a bid,” she said, and the team’s most assured way to do this would be to capture the A-10 Tournament title next weekend in Philadelphia. “Once we’re there, my goal is to make the Sweet 16. But we’re taking it one game at a time.”

The Colonials (20-7, 13-3 A-10) have put themselves in a good position, thanks largely to two necessary wins in their final two games. Before defeating Charlotte, which had enjoyed being at the top of the A-10 Conference all season, the Colonials knocked of No. 17 Temple Friday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, GW’s second upset of the Owls this season.

The road victory featured 21 points from sophomore Sarah-Jo Lawrence as the Colonials made a late surge to force overtime after trailing by as much as 15, It also gave GW the momentum it needed to return home and knock off the 49ers.

“I like having to finish games out and knowing that you have to win,” Lawrence said. “It makes you have to come out that much stronger. It’s a different mentality. So we just came out and did what we had to do and now we’re in the best position we could be in.”

The Colonials were forced to play their final two games without junior Kenan Cole, who hurt her knee. Coach Joe McKeown said he believes she will be ready for the A-10 Tournament.

“We’re dangerous and we can make a run just because of our size and match-up prowess,” McKeown said. “I think there are six or seven teams in our league who are really dangerous, so it’s going to be an interesting tournament.”

Injuries have plagued the Colonials all season, and much of the team’s success rides on the resilience of these players. Redshirt freshman Lisa Steele saw limited playing time during non-conference play and has only recently made an impact on games.

Performances such as the one she gave against Charlotte, an eight-point effort in just 14 minutes, will be important if the Colonials hope to make a run in both the A-10 and NCAA tournaments.

GW will also rely heavily on sophomore Kim Beck, a leader and shooting threat, and junior Whitney Allen. Both players have seen extensive time this season, with Beck’s full-game efforts a regularity.

“You have to give them a lot of credit,” McKeown said. “With seven new players, five of them freshmen, and the schedule we had, I was just hoping that we would still be standing by now. And now we’re sitting here at 20-7 and we’re regular season champions. I’m really proud of this group.”

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