For 39 minutes and 35 seconds, no one could tell who would come out victorious in Friday afternoon’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinal between the reigning two-time conference champions and No. 7 seed Duquesne.
But it was GW – the No. 2 seed that clinched its third straight regular season title last week – who learned the hard way that anything can happen in tournament play.
Over a span of 25 seconds in the fourth quarter, the Colonials saw their one-point lead slip away after clutch plays from the Dukes. Ill-timed fouls and miscues followed, closing the book on GW’s A-10 postseason run.
Unable to hold back a persistent Duquesne offense, the Colonials (20-9, 13-3 A-10) dropped the heartbreaking decision, 62–58.
“We win, we lose together as a staff, team, and you know we’re going to move forward together as well,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I told the girls in the locker room there’s not another group that I want to be out there fighting with.”
“We’re all disappointed in the outcome,” senior guard Shannon Cranshaw, who scored 10 points Friday, said. “It’s not what we anticipated but that doesn’t take away from the great things that we’ve done in our season and as seniors what we’ve done in the past three years. But it’s tough.”
The teams were in gridlock on the court for most of the game.
The Colonials were off to a frenetic first quarter when the Dukes opened the match with an ironclad zone defense. After ten minutes of play, GW was down 9—14 and shooting just 23.5 percent from the field to the Dukes’ 40.
The Colonials went back and forth with the Dukes on the floor to open the second quarter, before Cranshaw hit one of her signature threes to cut Duquesne’s lead down to two points.
An aggressive drive to the hoop by graduate student Lexi Martins tied the game at 14, but the Dukes were nipping at the heels of the Colonials, and both teams answered every time the other scored, resulting in a 22—22 tie heading into halftime.
The box score was nearly identical at the break for two teams which split their regular season series back in January. The Colonials were shooting 28 percent from the field to the Dukes’ 29, and GW was narrowly winning the boards, 24-23.
At the half, Martins was leading the team with seven points and six rebounds. Her post-partner, senior forward Caira Washington, was scoreless despite picking up four rebounds and three blocks.
The lone bright spot for the Colonials was their three-point shooting, led by Cranshaw, who went 2-for-4 from beyond the arc. GW went 4-for-9 in the half.
The Dukes set the pace early in the third, opening on a 5-0 run that was spurred on by Duquesne’s Amadea Szamosi. Szamosi, who scored 24 points against the Colonials in their last matchup, ended the night with 17 points and five rebounds.
But Washington answered Duquesne’s run with a monster drive to the hoop to pick up her first points of the night and halt her opponent’s momentum. Both teams went nearly the entire quarter taking turns with the lead before the Colonials picked up the pace in the last few minutes, fueled by their rock-solid bench.
Junior Brianna Cummings turned the pressure up, making hard drives to the rim and picking up seven points, which clutch free-throws with seconds left in the period to give the Colonials a slim one-point edge.
Freshman Kendall Bresee grabbed a loose ball at the half-court line and drove to the rim, taking on two Dukes and making a contested layup to give the Colonials a 38–35 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Senior guard Hannah Schaible tallied her first points of the game in the fourth frame when she hit two back-to-back threes to extend GW’s lead 45–38, and sophomore guard Mei-Lyn Bautista added to the lead with a drive to the arc to give the Colonials a nine-point cushion midway through the fourth.
But the Dukes weren’t backing down.
Szamosi, along with guards Julijana Vojinovic and Chassidy Omogrosso, fueled a 7-0 run late in the quarter that put GW down 57–54 with one minute and 20 seconds left in the game.
A drive to the hoop resulted in Martins picking up two points from the charity stripe, and Washington battled through double-coverage under the hoop and made a huge basket with 25 seconds left in the game to give the Colonials a one-point lead.
Szamosi made what could be called the biggest play of the game when she drove to the basket and was fouled while making her shot, sending her to the line for a three-point play.
After being called for a five-second violation on their next possession, the Colonials were forced to give up the ball to the Dukes.
A foul on the inbound play sent Duquesne’s Conor Richardson to the line, where she split her free throws and made it a two-possession game with eight seconds remaining.
Washington ended the night with 12 points and 9 rebounds, and Martins contributed a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Colonials ended the night shooting 34 percent from the field and grabbing 46 rebounds.
“The season has been such a privilege to play in and Coach Rizzotti, knowing the experience that she has as a basketball player and as a coach and to learn from her this entire year has been a blessing for me,” Cranshaw said. “She’s really just made us all very close and we play for her and it’s been a great year.”
Despite the loss, the Colonials are hopeful for a spot in the NCAA or National Invitation Tournament.
“Our season is not over,” Rizzotti said. “We can have as much basketball left to play as possible and that’s what they’ve earned for having such a great regular season, and hopefully the sting of this loss will stick with us a little bit and we’ll go back home and prepare for what’s next for us and the next step.”