Women’s basketball honored its four soon-to-be-graduates with a rousing pregame ceremony before their matchup against local rival George Mason Saturday afternoon. Fittingly enough, the player with the most basketball experience would return the favor and help the Colonials overwhelm the Patriots on Senior Day.
Graduate senior forward Lexi Martins tallied a first half double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and finished with 15 points and 12 boards on the afternoon as the Colonials (19-8, 12-3 A-10) romped George Mason (13-15, 6-9 A-10) 80-49. Sophomore guard Mei-Lyn Bautista added 11 points and five steals, and junior wing Brianna Cummings added 11 points off the bench.
The Colonials were dealt an early setback when senior forward Caira Washington picked up two fouls in the first quarter. However, the tandem of Martins and junior forward Kelli Prange dominated the offensive class, creating second chance opportunities at will.
“We have three post starters, which is really lucky because some teams don’t even have one,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I thought [Kelli] did a great job of coming in and being tough on the defensive end and getting rebounds.”
The initial pace to the game was frenetic for both teams as they tried to establish themselves on the offensive end. The Colonials had a clear emphasis on getting early post entries and working inside-out action, which led to 10 threes on the day. The Patriots, meanwhile, were adamant about scoring in transition and running their motion offense.
The game turned after a 6-0 run by George Mason gave them a 22-21 lead. After a GW timeout, Rizzotti implemented a full court trap press and a 3-2 zone in the half court.
The result was a 23-0 run in which the Colonials held the Patriots without a field goal for the last 6:27 of the second quarter. Even as the second half began, Mason seemed helpless to get quality looks or control the ball, as GW forced 17 turnovers.
“Sometimes when teams get comfortable and can kind of pass the ball around and get the shots that they want, you want to do something to disrupt that,” Rizzotti said. “We had success with that defense against them last time we played at their place, and I thought we did a great job again today.
Bautista’s energy on the defensive end played a huge role, including consecutive possessions where she made a steal in the backcourt that led to easy fast break layups.
“Coach always mentions before every game that a great game starts with great defense,” Bautista said. “When things start on the defensive end, the offense will come.”
With GW’s defense fueling their transition game and offensive output, the rout was on. The second half offered quite a lot in terms of GW’s depth and the energy of the team. Not to mention, one final sendoff for the fourth-years, who received a standing ovation from the crowd in the Smith Center as they departed the game together.
The spirit of the group—Washington, Martins, Hannah Schaible, and Shannon Cranshaw—was evident as they cheered their teammates from the sidelines, jumping around and yelling after baskets from the bench players.
“[The bench players] may not get as many minutes in other games, but they’re the ones making us better every day,” Schaible said. “They act as the scout team, they’re pushing us, and they make sure we’re ready to play.”
Despite the aura of finality surrounding the afternoon, Schaible reiterated that there is plenty more basketball to be played.
“We know that these last few games aren’t our last, so it was really important to get this last win at home,” she said. “The chapter’s closing for us… but not yet.”
GW closes out the regular season on the road against Richmond on Wednesday night. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.