With just a minute and 12 seconds left to play in Hagan Area, senior forward/guard Tara Booker stepped up to the arc, squared and released a shot that swished through the net and cut Saint Joseph’s lead to three.
And after GW gave up a bucket on the other end, Booker came back and did it again, converting on another trey, this time cutting the Hawks’ advantage to two.
But after failing to score on their final two offensive possessions, it became clear that the Colonials’ comeback against conference foe Saint Joseph’s would fall short. Although they were big-time shots, Booker’s final minute three-ball conversions – the only two three-pointers GW made – weren’t the norm for the team’s offensive performance on the day.
Despite the 52-49 loss at the hands of the Hawks, head coach Mike Bozeman remains positive as his team heads into the A-10 tournament. The Colonials’ focus and intensity during the game, he said, showed they’re ready to push hard through postseason play.
“After the La Salle game, we went back into practice and focused on making game-time decisions,” Bozeman said. “The girls came in today and really showed that we are capable of beating everyone in our conference. They’re encouraged and I’m encouraged as we head into the conference tournament.”
As play started in the first half, neither team could get anything going on either side of the ball. Sloppy play led to a chaotic first five minutes, during which both teams struggled to slow down their respective offenses. Though the Colonials opened with a 4-0 run, they missed seven of their first eight shots, allowing the Hawks to easily even things up at eight apiece with 13 minutes and 42 seconds left in the half.
The low-scoring effort continued for both teams as the half pushed on. Though the Colonials’ mix of man-to-man and 3-2 zone defenses stymied Saint Joseph’s for the first 12 minutes of play, missed shots on the offensive end allowed the Hawks to develop an 11-point run over the final stretch of the half. Combined with the Colonials’ continued shooting struggles, the Hawks’ run left GW with a six point deficit at the half.
Still, Bozeman said, despite the Colonials’ poor first half shooting performance, defensive execution kept GW within reach.
“I wasn’t discouraged because I thought our defense was performing pretty well,” Bozeman said. “We kept focused, and we maintained striking distance. That was important.”
But as the second half started, the Colonials’ defense was immediately put to the test. Following a field goal from senior guard Tiana Myers, the Hawks opened up a quick five-point run while showing more comfort in shooting from long range. After hitting only one three-pointer in the first half, the Hawks hit four crucial three-balls in the second, many times directly in response to Colonials field goals.
Falling victim to the difficult traps Saint Joseph’s zone defense created, GW failed to find openings on offense until sophomore forward Chelisa Painter drove to the hole, scored, and drew a foul with 12:02 left to play. The play served as a spark for the Colonials comeback that would follow and symbolized the growing confidence of the players returning to the lineup. Returning junior forward Shi-Heria Shipp also added two second-half buckets and finished the game with four points and a steal.
“The thing that helped [Shipp and Painter] the most was those two days that we spent trying to get the chemistry together,” Bozeman said. “They needed that to be able to assist us in the way that they’re capable of.”
With just over a minute left to play, GW pulled within three points, thanks to Booker’s first three-pointer. After her second three-point conversion, the Colonials found themselves down just two points. But from that point on, the Hawks were able to hold on and get the defensive stops they needed to secure the victory.
Despite the loss, Booker recorded a double-double, tallying 15 points and 12 rebounds, six of which came off the offensive glass. Myers and junior guard Danni Jackson also contributed on offense, compiling eight and 12 points, respectively. Redshirt junior forward Brooke Wilson contributed six rebounds as well.
Though Bozeman admits he’s disappointed about the Colonials five-game losing streak to round out the regular season, he also feels encouraged about the progress his team has made in preparation for the approaching A-10 tournament, in which tenth-seeded GW is slated to take on No. 7 Duquesne March 2 at 5 p.m.
“I’m proud of how hard the girls played amidst the intensity of the game, and we’re going to take that into the tournament,” Bozeman said. “I think we are going to be a problem for the other teams.”