Exactly two weeks prior to Friday’s WNIT first-round matchup, women’s basketball bowed out of the Atlantic 10 championship following a crushing defeat to Duquesne in a game that GW led by nine with 6:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.
This time, the Colonials found themselves in an eerily similar situation, leading the Navy Midshipmen by ten with 6:34 left on the clock in the opening round of the WNIT.
In a turn of misfortune, chaos once again reigned supreme, ending GW’s season in a heartbreaking 61-51 overtime loss at home.
The Colonials’ 21-for-86 (.244) shooting performance was a season-worst. Despite hauling in 28 offensive rebounds and creating second chance opportunities on nearly every possession, GW simply could not find the bottom of the net on Friday.
“You could tell we were a little out of sync and we were a little rusty,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “We got 86 shots and we couldn’t make anything.”
In the losing effort, the Colonials recorded a 28-5 advantage on the offensive glass, which led to 30 second chance points, a season-high.
A major factor in the Colonials’ dominance on the glass was that the Colonials held a significant size advantage. Senior center Caira Washington capitalized, carving out position on the block and dominating the offensive glass.
In the final game of her career, Washington recorded her 35th career double-double, posting 13 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Colonials, despite needing 19 shots to do so.
“Early in the game I asked [Caira] to be more aggressive because she was passing up opportunities to score,” Rizzotti said. “I would love to have Caira to take 20 shots every game, especially since she’s been shooting 60 percent all year long…it’s just disappointing that in her last game she shot a lower percentage than she usually does.”
Washington was not the only Colonial to struggle from the field. The Midshipmen closed out on shooters, neutralizing guards Shannon Cranshaw (0-for-2) and Mei-Lyn Bautista (2-for-10), while making life difficult for leading scorer Lexi Martins, who was held to eight points on 4-for-13 shooting.
Off the bench, Jada Matthews, Kelli Prange, and Kendall Bresee combined to shoot 0-for-12 from the field.
The Colonials appeared to lack rhythm and chemistry on offense all night, mishandling a number of dribble hand-offs and making sloppy passes. Rizzotti attributed part of the blame to how much time off her team had between games.
“We were in such a good groove in February – we were playing every three days, we won seven games in a row, we had our mo-jo going,” Rizzotti said. “A long week-and-a-half stretch before Richmond, a two week stretch before we played tonight… it’s disappointing to end this way.”
The home team found itself in an early six-point hole after making converting on just one of its first 11 shot attempts through the first five minutes of the first quarter. Navy’s quick guards were able to beat GW defenders to the basket.
However, second chance opportunities kept GW in striking distance. Despite shooting just 19 percent in the first quarter, and allowing Navy to shoot 54.5 percent, GW found themselves down just four thanks to nine offensive rebounds in the first frame alone.
The second quarter saw both teams playing at a much faster pace as each team struggled to score in its half-court sets. The Colonials took a 21-20 lead going into halftime, largely because of a more engaged defensive effort. GW snagged eight steals in the half and forced six turnovers in the second quarter.
Following a back-and-forth third quarter, the Colonials opened up the fourth quarter firing. Camila Tapias drained a three to cap off a 9-3 GW run, giving them their largest lead of the game, 44-34, with 6:34 remaining in the fourth.
Navy would not sit down quietly. The Patriot League runner-ups responded with a 14-4 run to knot the game up at 48.
The tying basket was scored by forward Ashanti Kennedy – Navy’s leading bench scorer – who hit a deep two from the corner with 1:41 remaining to knot the game at 48.
After a frantic scramble for a loose ball off a Navy miss, senior guard Hannah Schaible – as she has done many times in her GW career – dove for the ball and called timeout with 34 seconds remaining.
Washington missed a layup with seven seconds remaining, giving the Midshipmen another try, but Schaible halted their attempt by taking a charge.
The contest went into overtime after Washington was blocked at the buzzer.
Starting point guard Mei-Lyn Bautista re-entered the game in overtime after missing the entire fourth quarter with a hamstring injury, but Navy’s speed remained too much for the Colonials in overtime.
They wore GW’s defense down with shot-fakes and drive-and-kicks, sprinting out to a 13-3 run behind a difficult three pointer from Ashanti Kennedy, four free throws from Taylor Dunham, and a layup from leading scorer Sarita Condie, who finished with a game-high 17 points and 9 rebounds for the Midshipmen.
The loss dropped the Colonials to 20-10 overall and 2-2 in overtime games this season.
Despite two consecutive defeats in, Rizzotti emphasized how memorable her group of seniors has made her first season at the helm in Foggy Bottom.
“This loss will sting for a while, and there’ll be a little bit of devastation feeling – especially for our seniors,” Rizzotti said. “But, at some point in the next few weeks and months, we’ll have a chance to reflect upon this season and how special it’s been for me, and for these girls, and for the careers of our seniors, and how unbelievable they have been.”