Women’s basketball handed No. 1 seed Dayton its second loss of the year against an Atlantic 10 team Saturday, advancing the Colonials to Sunday’s conference championship.
Having won six of their final eight games of the season and defeating five conference teams by only single digits, the No. 5 seed Colonials (18-13, 10-6 A-10) defeated the defending champion Flyers (23-6, 15-1, A-10) 58–53 at the Richmond Coliseum.
The win secures GW’s ticket to its third A-10 Championship game in four years. The Colonials won the title in both 2015 and 2016.
“You’re talking about a team that has had to make big strides and figure out their identity,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I’m not surprised that we are here, not after the way we played in February.”
In last year’s tournament, the then-No. 2 Colonials did not make it past the second round, losing to Duquesne by four points. Coming into this season’s tournament, senior guard Brianna Cummings said the team was prepared to face a tough schedule.
Dayton had defeated GW two times earlier in the season, including a four-point Flyers win at the Smith Center in February.
Cummings led the Colonials with 15 points, six rebounds and two assists. She was followed by freshman forward Neila Luma and junior forward Kelsi Mahoney who both added 12 points. Senior forward Kelli Prange also scored in the double digits, adding 10 points for the Colonials.
Throughout the morning, the Colonials held onto the ball, turning it over just one time in the game. The Flyers turned the ball over 11 times and shot only 32.7 percent from the floor.
“It’s the name of the game, taking care of the ball,” Mahoney said. “When you’re playing a good defensive team like Dayton, we have to take care of the ball. We did score more points and hit them on the defensive end as well.”
GW set the tone early on, opening the first quarter with a 6-0 run and leaving the Flyers scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the contest.
Dayton responded with a 5-0 run of its own, but one of four three-pointers on the night from Mahoney brought the score to within one point as the first quarter concluded.
Despite a strong second quarter start for the Flyers, the Colonials held them scoreless for five minutes later in the frame and only allowed 11 points from the first place team.
“That’s the way our team works,” Mahoney said. “If we work hard on the defensive end and we get the ball, then we are confident in our offensive set.”
After shooting just 1-of-7 from the field over the final seven minutes of the half, the Flyers trailed by two points at halftime for the first time since the beginning of December.
Dayton cut the lead in the third quarter to three points and opened the fourth quarter with a 4-0 run, showing they would not let the Colonials win without a fight. But Mahoney made two key three-pointers within two minutes of each other to put the Colonials up by six points with two minutes to play.
“Kelsi Mahoney is probably one of the most underrated players in the league,” Rizzotti said. “She makes big shots and she’s really really smart. She uses her intelligence and toughness to find a way.”
The Colonials shot 11-for-14 from the freethrow line in the fourth quarter. Junior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista scored five points from the charity stripe in the last 40 seconds of the game, helping GW hold onto its lead as time ran out on the clock.
“We came in here and we took care of business today,” Cummings said. “I’m proud of my team, but we aren’t finished.”
The Colonials will conclude their tournament action against No. 6 seed Saint Joseph’s Sunday for a chance at the A-10 championship. Tipoff is slated for noon.