Women’s basketball made a run to the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals behind wins over Saint Bonaventure and La Salle before falling to defending A-10 champions VCU.
The 12th seeded Colonials (13-18, 4-11 A-10) started the week in Wilmington off strong and beat the Bonnies (12-16, 4-12 A-10) 54-49. The team was led by 17 points from graduate student guard Kyara Frames and a 14-point, 10-rebound double double from redshirt junior forward Mayowa Taiwo.
GW started off strong and had a 16-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, with freshman forward Maxine Engel scoring 10 of her 12 points in the first eight minutes. But Saint Bonaventure bounced back in the second stanza, outscoring the Colonials 14-2. At halftime, the Bonnies led 23-18.
The teams traded baskets throughout the third quarter and the Colonials went into the final period still trailing by five points, 41-36. But down the stretch it was the Colonials who had the advantage, with Frames and Taiwo scoring 14 of the team’s 18 points in the final quarter.
Frames came up big, knocking down a three to give GW its first lead of the second half with 1:36 remaining. She followed that up with a dagger from behind the arc to put the Colonials up 51-46.
Just 22 hours after they took care of the Bonnies, GW returned to the Chase Fieldhouse to take on fifth seeded La Salle (16-12, 9-6 A-10), who they beat 64-54 after controlling much of the game.
In arguably their most complete performance of the season, the Colonials got revenge for a 62-55 Explorers win on GW’s Senior Day only five days earlier. Frames once again led the team in scoring, this time with 14 points.
Taiwo got another double-double, this time scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to go along with a season high seven assists. It was her sixth double double of the season and fifth in the previous seven games.
For the second game in a row GW led 16-9 at the end of the first quarter. The Colonials kept their foot on the pedal in the second quarter, a deciding difference between their match the previous day of the tournament.
Although the scoring fell off, the Colonials still managed a 12-11 advantage in the second quarter to end the half with a 28-20 lead.
GW continued to build their lead through as the second half began, finishing the third quarter with a commanding 47-33 lead. Although the Explorers looked better in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t enough to close the gap.
The Colonials ended the game shooting a season high 50% from the field while limiting La Salle to just 32.8% from the field and 5-25 from three point range.
In their third consecutive 1:30 p.m. tip-off, GW took on a VCU team that had come off back to back trips to the A-10 Championship.
The Colonials ultimately fell 55-47 to the fourth seeded Rams despite a valiant effort, going blow for blow with one of the A-10’s top teams. With a win, the Colonials would have been the lowest seed to ever make the A-10 semifinals.
“I’m really proud of this group,” head coach Caroline McCombs said. “They embody a lot of the characteristics that we’re trying to build in our program. We’re tough, we’re gritty, we have heart, we have togetherness, we have connectedness. We just do a lot of things. I’m really proud to be their coach.”
GW was led by a 15 point, four steal, three rebound, and one block performance by junior guard Sheslanie Laureano. Meanwhile, the Rams racked up 19 points from graduate student guard Taya Robinson and 17 points from sophomore guard Sarah Te-Biasu.
Although GW wasn’t as sharp offensively as they were in the prior two games, the defense continued strong, a defining facet of the team this year. At the end of the first quarter the Rams led 11-9 behind seven points from Te-Biasu.
But the Colonials rekindled their offensive flame to begin the second quarter, shooting 4-of-8 from three-point range. They were led by junior guard Nya Lok who scored all nine of her points in the second quarter, hitting a perfect 3-of-3 from deep.
At halftime, GW led 26-21 and had forced eight VCU turnovers while keeping the Rams at 33 percent or 8-of-24 from the floor.
The Colonials were held to six points on 2-12 shooting in the third quarter and didn’t score a field goal for the first 3:20 of the second half. Fortunately for GW, the Rams also struggled on offense to start the second half.
The teams started the quarter a combined 0-of-8 from the field before Robinson got the Rams on the board.
The Rams went on a 9-0 run mid-way through the quarter and VCU finished the third quarter with 15 points on 7-of-17 shooting, boosted by an 11 point quarter from Robinson. VCU led 36-31 going into the final frame.
Frames once again scored in double digits, this time finishing with 11 points to go along with three assists, and two rebounds. The Laurel, Maryland native and Albany transfer was playing in her last college basketball game and was quick to express her gratitude following the Colonials run in the conference tournament.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else besides here,” Frames said. “Coach McCombs gave me a great opportunity to come here with my COVID year. And I’m just grateful that I came here. You know, it’s been a wonderful experience.”
GW began to wake up offensively a few minutes into the fourth quarter, ripping off an 8-0 run to take a 42-40 lead with 6:21 remaining, spearheaded by Laureano, who had two steals and four points in just over a minute.
But GW had no answer for 6’3 junior center Chloe Bloom down the stretch, who had all seven of her points in the fourth quarter as she dominated the paint. The teams were tied at 45 with 2:43 remaining but after VCU took the lead off a Bloom free throw, the Rams led the rest of the way.
The Colonials went 7-6 in non-conference play before starting conference play 0-8 in the midst of COVID troubles. But after a few close losses the team went on a four game winning streak and picked up some momentum going down the home stretch, which culminated in a run at the conference tournament.
“You’re gonna have failures, you’re gonna have setbacks, you’re gonna have adversity,” McCombs said. “How you respond to that is so important.”
Although GW had an up and down season, McCombs’ first year in charge has proved to be a successful one.
The team ended the season ranked 19th in the country in scoring defense, letting up only 55.2 points per game. The defense-first culture that McCombs and her staff have instilled is one that will pay dividends in the long run, especially as she is able to put an even bigger fingerprint on the program through recruiting and play style.
Taiwo will return to GW for her fifth year, looking to use her first year under McCombs as a springboard for her final season as a Colonial.
“This year, we were really focused on building our foundation,” Taiwo said. “And that comes with all the little details and all the character traits, and just being the team that outworks every other team.”
This article appeared in the March 10, 2022 issue of the Hatchet.