As senior forward Ivy Abiona exited the court for the last time Sunday afternoon, the crowd rose to its feet, sending GW’s lone senior off the court with a standing ovation.
While members of the crowd wearing shirts emblazoned with her name cheered, head coach Mike Bozeman embraced Abiona before she took her seat. It was a Senior-Day sendoff for Abiona, the Colonials’ last remaining player from the team’s trip to the 2007 NCAA tournament under former head coach Joe McKeown. The last true witness to the team’s past success, Abiona leaves GW with first-hand knowledge of the ups and downs the program has seen as it transitioned from McKeown to current head coach Mike Bozeman.
“It was a culmination of all my years here,” Abiona said after the game. “Just apply the lessons learned in basketball, apply to life, because there’s a lot of similarities. Just take that on into my future endeavors, really.”
It was a disappointing end to 5 years that began with such success for Abiona. Sunday’s 64-49 loss to Saint Joseph’s was the team’s fourth-straight, and the Colonials (8-20, 3-11 A-10), a powerhouse in the A-10 when Abiona arrived at GW, struggled offensively against the Hawks. Saint Joseph’s limited GW to a shooting percentage of just 36.2 for the game, and the Hawks’s strong press defense overwhelmed the Colonials, limiting them from the field and forcing rushed shots. GW rallied briefly early in the second half but ultimately couldn’t keep pace with the Hawks.
“We were down two and once we got that going, I think they made an adjustment and our attempts to adjust to their adjustment didn’t have so much success,” Bozeman said. “I was a little disappointed with our execution. It was just little mistakes.”
Junior center Sara Mostafa and sophomore guard Danni Jackson were the two players on the court for GW who were able to find success Sunday. Mostafa scored a game-high 16 points, including eight points from the free-throw line. Jackson, returning to the court after a brief stint on the sidelines due to injury, was once again an offensive catalyst for the Colonials, racking up 14 points and five assists.
“I did make mistakes, but after I made mistakes I tried to make adjustments,” Mostafa said. “I really try to take the pressure off of myself, because if I start thinking that way, ‘I need to score, I need to score,’ then I might start getting panicked or making poor decisions. I really try to let my teammates get me the ball in the flow of the offense and try not to force anything.”
Despite the strong contributions of Mostafa and Jackson, GW was unable to walk away with a victory Sunday afternoon, due partly to the team’s inability to contain the Hawks defensively. Saint Joseph’s shot 45.5 percent from the field, adding 17 assists and forcing 16 turnovers in a dominant showing.
“I think Saint Joseph’s did a great job with execution of their system,” Bozeman said. “I thought we had the plan to do it, I just don’t think we executed pretty well.”
The Colonials now look to postseason play, traveling to the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., for the Atlantic 10 Championship. GW, the tournament’s 11th seed, will take on Dayton in the first round Friday. Though the team has struggled this season, Bozeman remains optimistic that his players have what it takes to capitalize on their trip to the league championship.
“You have to take advantage of opportunities,” Bozeman said. “If you’re going to go on a three-game winning streak, this is the time to do it. I’ve been telling my team all season that we have the pieces. Yeah, a lot of them are injured, but we have all it takes for us to gather enough momentum and steam to win three games. And it erases everything we went through during the season.”