When women’s basketball took the court at Saint Joseph’s Tuesday afternoon, they were ready to face the same team they defeated almost exactly a year ago when they took home the Atlantic 10 Championship.
But in the title game rematch, the Colonials (10–20, 7–9 A-10) could not keep pace with a Saint Joseph’s (12–18, 7–9 A-10) squad that came out of the locker room firing and steadily pulled further out of reach before taking the game. GW was sent home bearing a 61–49 loss in the first round that wrapped up the season and promptly ended its postseason run.
The game was relatively even on paper. The Colonials shot 38.0 percent from the field while the Hawks put up slightly strong numbers, shooting 38.9 percent. Saint Joseph’s narrowly edged out GW on rebounds with 34–33, but the Hawks converted two more threes than GW and knocked down 13 free throws to the Colonials’ seven.
The Colonials trailed by just four points after the opening 20 minutes of play 26–22, but a 35-point effort by the Hawks in the final frame put Saint Joseph’s on top when the final buzzer sounded.
“I thought our execution was good, we just didn’t have enough balance in our scoring to really put a dent in it,” head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “I thought Saint Joe’s did an excellent job offensively of being able to counter our size with their kind of speed and athleticism.”
An athletic department spokesman declined to facilitate interviews with student-athletes after the game, citing a department policy.
Saint Joseph’s senior guard Alyssa Monaghan was 4-for-6 from three-point range and led all scorers with 21 points on the day. Hawks sophomore guard Lula Roig and senior forward Whisper Fisher added 14 and 10 points, respectively.
GW was led by sophomore forward Neila Luma, who recorded her second consecutive double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman center Kayla Mokwuah added 13 points while senior guard Mei-Lyn Bautista tallied 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting. It took until the midway point of the second quarter for a Colonial other than Luma or Mokwuah to score for GW.
The Colonials got off to a solid start by abusing mismatches in the paint, with Mokwuah scoring around the basket on GW’s first two possessions.
“They play with four guards, so I thought our advantage would be in the post,” Rizzotti said. “We did a pretty good job of really being able to isolate Neila and Kayla down there.”
A three from redshirt freshman guard Katie Jekot put the Hawks up 7–4 early on, but a pair of baskets from Luma and Mokwuah put the Colonials back on top 8–7 with less than five minutes to play in the frame. Saint Joseph’s went into a full-court press for the remainder of the half following the sequence and forced five turnovers by halftime.
A jumper from Luma was followed by a 5–0 run for Saint Joseph’s that culminated in a three from Monaghan to retake the lead, 12–10. Luma managed to get to the free-throw line late in the quarter and made both shots to tie the game at the end of the first frame.
A back-and-forth second quarter with seven lead changes started with a shot off the glass from Luma that put GW back in control 14–12. Soon after, the Colonials broke the Saint Joseph’s press when Bautista found Mahoney wide open for GW’s first three of the game to lead 19–18.
But the Colonials had a scoring drought lasting more than three of the final five minutes and looked lost offensively when Mokwuah and Luma were not on the court to anchor the post.
With GW trailing 25–22, senior guard Anna Savino fouled Roig as she was shooting a three at the buzzer. Roig made just one of her three attempts and the Hawks held a 26–22 advantage heading into the second half.
The third quarter could not have started worse for the Colonials. An 11–2 Hawks run in the first four minutes of the second half forced GW into a timeout, trailing in a 37–26 hole.
A layup from freshman guard Maddie Loder out of the timeout cut the lead to single digits but a seven-point burst from Roig gave the Hawks a 44–31 lead with about three minutes on the clock in the quarter.
“I thought she did just a really good job of exploiting our size. You know, she’s got some quickness to her and she’s not really an outside threat but she took the ball to the hole a couple times and got fouled,” Rizzotti said about Roig. “That was the ‘X-factor’ in this game and we didn’t have that same kind of ‘X-factor’ on our bench.”
As minutes in the frame wound down, the Colonials found a spark when redshirt sophomore forward Olivia Gumbs converted a layup and Bautista drilled a three-pointer in transition with a minute remaining. She then turned into a provider, slipping a bounce pass to a wide-open Mokwuah in the paint for an easy layup. GW trailed 44–38 entering the final 10 minutes of play.
Saint Joseph’s came out strong once again, posting a 9–1 run in the first three minutes, pushing its lead to 53–39.
Another 8–1 run from the Hawks later in the quarter extended their lead 61–42 – the largest of the game – with about three minutes left.
Saint Joseph’s failed to score for the remainder of the match, but a 7–0 Colonials run in the final minutes proved to be too little, too late to keep their season going.
“I thought some guys individually grew up a lot this year and have a chance to have a bright future,” Rizzotti said. “But, you know, we always feel bad for our seniors when their careers come to an end like this.”