Last-second shot sends Colonials to Sweet 16

Tuesday, March 25, 12:22 a.m.

STANFORD, Calif., March 24 – Bank. Swish. Buzzer. Ballgame.

And that was it. After 39 and a half minutes of trailing a step behind University of California, senior Sarah-Jo Lawrence’s four-foot floater dropped effortlessly through the net and sent the sixth-seeded GW women’s basketball team’s bench screaming into the Sweet 16. They flooded the court as they celebrated a 55-53 victory over the third-seeded Bears in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

“So long,” Lawrence said of the time she felt took for the final shot to go in. “It took forever, but then when it went in, I was shocked. Just like, ‘is it over?'”

GW will head to the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., for the Sweet 16 March 30 against the winner of the Rutgers/Iowa State game.

The winning basket, made after an errant shot by classmate Kim Beck, was part of an 11-2 run over the last four minutes that brought the Colonials even with, and then past the Bears. Lawrence also had the tying basket, slashing through the Cal defense with 12 seconds to go for a layup to put the score even at 53.

Cal had led nearly all game. The Colonials (27-6) fought hard for the game’s entirety, but just could not seem to overtake Cal’s guards and low post scorer Ashley Walker, who led all players with 19 points.

So even when junior Antelia Parrish hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to four and classmate Jessica Adair made a pair of clutch free throws to bring the lead to just two with two minutes to play, it still seemed as if a Cal squad, playing about an hour from home in Berkeley, would be able to hold on for a close call victory against GW. That was until Bears’ guard Natasha Vital brought the ball up the floor after Lawrence’s tying bucket with less than 10 seconds to play.

Vital was forced to the sideline by the Colonials’ trap and tried to call a timeout with six seconds remaining. Official Amy Bonner called Vital for a travel and gave the Colonials the ball for what would be the winning possession.

Cal head coach Joanne Boyle disagreed with Bonner’s assessment, coldly telling reporters after the game that Vital “didn’t travel.” Boyle also said that Vital called timeout.

Unfortunately for the Bears, the play stood and GW walked off the floor with a two-point victory to a chorus of boos. Red eyes and choked-up players comprised the scenery when Cal players took to the podium for the postgame press conference.

GW head coach Joe McKeown congratulated Cal on an excellent season, but said it was too soon to rank this game among the others he has coached in 19 years at GW. Instead, he simply expressed the pride he takes in his squad.

“I’m really proud of my team,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable. It’s one of those games that is going to go down as one of the great games in GW history.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.