When senior forward Jonquel Jones went down with a shoulder injury last Wednesday against Massachusetts, a special kind of hush fell over the crowd in the Smith Center. Even the Minutewomen on the court were slow to go over to their huddle.
An injury to Jones is GW’s nightmare scenario, yet, somehow, it’s one the team is built to withstand. While a long-term injury to Jones would greatly diminish the team’s ceiling, the Colonials have two posts in junior Caira Washington and sophomore Kelli Prange, both capable of being primary options in her absence. That’s exactly what they were down the stretch in the Massachusetts game and on Sunday against George Mason.
“Adversity leads to opportunity,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said.
The pair was integral in both contests. Against UMass, the Colonials had just extended their lead to 13 points when Jones went down, but the Colonials managed to pull out a 17-point victory, 67–50.
Prange was a force at power forward, posting up in the paint on offense and denying entry towards the basket on defense. She led the Colonials with a season-high 11 rebounds and helped GW dominate the battle of the boards for its then-19th straight game.
Prange’s glass cleaning, along with the Colonials’ overall defensive effort helped to minimize senior forward Rashida Timbilla, the crux of the Minutewomen’s frontcourt.
Prange and Washington had no trouble up front together against George Mason on Friday. They got out in transition and took quick passes from baseline into the basket without allowing time for the defense to set. Their hustle payed off, as they combined for 37 points and 24 rebounds to help GW to an 82‒68 win.
Washington scored 18 of her 20 total points in the first half to open up an early lead and shot 9-for-15 from the field on the night. Prange finished with 17 points, was perfect from the charity stripe and knocked down a shot from beyond the arc to open the second half.
“I think she’s [Kelli Prange] a kid that’s craving the opportunity,” Tsipis said. “She has such a unique skill set from a post standpoint, she scores from the outside, she got to the free throw line, which was huge and seven offensive rebounds. She didn’t score on all of them, but she got us those extra possessions.”
Jones, who leads the nation with 14.8 boards per game, left some big shoes to fill. But the rest of GW was up for the challenge, as both Prange and Washington amassed 12 rebounds apiece to slay George Mason 42‒38 on the boards.
“Kelli did a great job today. She kept moving, really found her shot early and crashed the boards hard,” Washington said.
GW was led by its guards in its latest win, at Davidson Wednesday, but Prange and Washington still combined for 16 points (12 of which were from Washington) in a game in which the Wildcats allowed the Colonials to sink nine threes while double-teaming the posts.
Tsipis said Jones visited a specialist on Friday regarding her injury, but he does not know her return-to-play date. The coaching staff will continue to monitor her recovery and progress on a day-to-day basis. She made the trip to Davidson but was inactive.
The Colonials return to action on Sunday to host Saint Louis at 2 p.m.