A heroic shot with five seconds remaining from graduate student guard Mia Lakstigala pushed women’s basketball past Duquesne in the second round of the Atlantic 10 tournament Thursday evening, securing a spot in the quarterfinals for the Colonials.
The Colonials defeated the Dukes 71-68 in the Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, led by a 24-point performance from Lakstigala, whose game-winning, 3-point dagger sealed GW’s victory after a nailbiter. GW now advances to face second-seeded Rhode Island Friday at 5 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
Lakstigala’s game-winning shot came off of redshirt senior forward Mayowa Taiwo’s sixth offensive rebound of the game. Lakstigala said she knew GW had a chance at victory when Taiwo kicked the ball to her at the wing from below the rim with less than 10 seconds left.
“I’m just really proud of her, that she was able to get that last one,” Lakstigala said after the game. “And when she kicked it out, I knew the time was running down, so all I had to do was shoot it.”
Lakstigala nailed the jumper with just 4.9 seconds left, sending the GW bench into jubilant chaos. Taiwo – who played all 40 minutes of the game – blocked a last-second Duquesne 3-point attempt, and Lakstigala secured the rebound feet away. The hero of the game ended with the ball in her hands and sprinted to the GW bench to celebrate their advancement to the quarterfinals.
Head Coach Caroline McCombs said controlling the boards and maintaining possessions against the well-shooting Dukes was a main focus of the team.
“We knew we needed to rebound,” McCombs said after the game. “We knew we needed to be the tougher team. And I’m just really proud again of our resilience.”
Senior guard Nya Lok bolstered GW’s performance in the second half, lighting up the scoreboard with 17 points and shooting 7-8 from the field in the back 20 minutes. Lok scored 20 throughout the whole affair paired with eight rebounds, ailing Duquesne throughout the second half.
Lakstigala opened the scoring 45 seconds into the game with a 3-pointer off a pass by junior guard Asjah Inniss, the first of her six made shots from behind the arc. In what could have been her final collegiate game, the star scored 24 to go along with nine rebounds.
“They did a really good job of finding me for those open shots,” Lakstigala said of her dominant game. “I think when we play well together, the game just comes naturally.”
The game soon became a back-and-forth affair, with Duquesne knocking down two consecutive corner 3s in the third minute of the game, including one by star sophomore guard Megan McConnell, a member of the second team All A-10. McConnell scored 17 on the night alongside eight rebounds and eight assists.
Lakstigala’s 10 first-quarter points bolstered GW’s offense and pushed the Colonials to a 16-11 lead with three minutes to go. But four consecutive GW turnovers, including three straight travels, allowed Duquesne to momentarily jump out to a 1-point lead before a layup by Inniss pushed GW back in front.
GW was able to remain in the driver’s seat for the rest of the first half – never ceding the lead and holding Duquesne to only 14 points in the second quarter, entering the break up 36-33.
Freshman guard Nya Robertson – the A-10’s Sixth Woman of the Year – struggled off the bench, particularly in the second quarter, where she went only one for five. Robertson, the team’s highest scorer this year with 14.5 points per game, finished the duel with 7 points, making three of her 13 attempts.
The teams traded barbs in the first five minutes of the second half, and a 3-pointer from Duquesne sophomore guard Naelle Bernard tied the game at 43. But Lakstigala and Lok shot back, making consecutive treys and sparking a 12-3 GW run.
“When it comes to March Madness, you just need to be the tougher team,” Lok said.
Both teams were solid from 3-point range – the Dukes sank nine of their 22 attempts, while GW made 10 of 23. The Colonials held Duquesne sophomore guard Tess Myers – who was sixth in the NCAA in 3-point attempts with an impressive 38 percent shooting percentage – to only three shots from deep.
GW entered the final quarter with a 9-point lead, but a flurry of Duquesne shots cut the margin to just 1 with 7:40 left in the game. Both teams quieted down for the next three minutes, but the Dukes nabbed a 64-62 lead with 4:17 left, Duquesne’s first advantage since the first quarter.
The teams ping-ponged for the next three minutes, and a Lok layup with 56 seconds remaining tied the game at 68. Duquesne failed to score in the last 2:52, missing all four of their attempts.
After a Duquesne jumper flew out of bounds following a scrap for the rebound, officials reviewed to see who touched the ball last and granted possession to GW.
With 11 seconds left, a layup from Asjah Inniss bounced off the far side of the rim, right to the waiting Taiwo. Taiwo leaped over a misplaced Duke rebounder and kicked the ball out to Lakstigala at the wing with seven seconds remaining.
Lakstigala’s instinctual shot nestled through the hoop with 4.9 seconds left, and Duquesne called timeout.
“I just had the confidence in my shot,” she said.
Duquesne inbounded the ball from half-court on their last possession, but Taiwo blocked a final 3-point attempt from Myers at the wing. Lakstigala dribbled out the remaining seconds across midcourt before a Duke could foul her.
GW faces Rhode Island Friday, a rematch of the Rams’ 64-47 drubbing of GW last month. Rhode Island finished 14-2 in the A-10, with Head Coach Tammi Reiss earning the nod as A-10 Coach of the Year and junior forward Mayé Touré winning the A-10’s Most Improved Player award.
The Colonials face off against no. 2 seed Rhode Island Friday at 5 p.m. in Wilmington, Delaware, in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament.
This article appeared in the March 2, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.