This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Jake Deitcher.
Down 57-60 with 14 seconds left in the game, GW needed three points to tie District rival Howard and take the game into overtime.
Graduate student forward Tara Booker caught a pass from senior guard Danni Jackson and lined up the potential game-tying shot with six seconds left. Booker released the ball from the wing, and was quickly greeted with a hard foul from a Howard defender. But her shot was also accompanied by another sound – the loud cheers from the Smith Center crowd.
Despite the foul, she’d drained the three, tying the game. With the extra shot, Booker had the chance to win the game. She stepped to the line, dribbled and sent the ball slicing through the air. It sunk through the net, capping a 21-7 Colonial run and ensuring the dramatic 61-60 win.
“I had fallen so I didn’t even know it went in until I heard everyone screaming,” Booker said. “It was big to have [head] coach [Jonathan Tsipis] pull us over and let us breathe after the shot. I looked up into the stands. My dad knows how much I panic shooting free throws. I don’t really like having all eyes on me. But I just tried to breathe.”
Booker entered the contest 11 points shy of 1,000 points in her career as a Colonial.She hit that mark with a jumper that cut GW’s deficit to eight with just over four minutes left. Fittingly, it was the score that would spark the team’s eventual comeback, which saw Booker sink another three in addition to the one that would win the game. She ended the game as the team’s leading scorer, with 18 points.
“A game winner and 1,000 points all on the same day,” Booker said. “It was a great coincidence to have.”
The contest initially didn’t seem to be going GW’s way. The Colonials (5-5) were outscored and out hustled in the first half of play. While they were able to defend Howard effectively at the beginning of plays, Howard grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half to extend their possessions.
Though Howard dominated GW on the boards, the Bison were mostly ineffective at scoring in the paint. Their four first half points in the paint were supplemented by pristine three point shooting. Despite GW limiting Howard to 34.4 percent shooting in the first half, the Bison converted five of their nine three point attempts.
“I feel like every time we cut into their lead, they would hit a three or get to the free throw line and a little bit of air would come out of us. But we kept attacking,” Tsipis said.
The biggest source of the Colonials’ offensive trouble came from ball control. GW turned it over 10 times, in the first half the majority of which came from attempts to pass the ball to players in the post. And Howard capitalized on GW’s sloppy passing, scoring 14 points off of GW turnovers. GW struggles to hold onto the ball resulted in 30 first half points for the Bison and only 23 for the Colonials.
The Colonials struggled through the first ten minutes of the second half. Booker had seven points and seven rebounds at halftime, but she was held scoreless in the second half before scoring with just over nine minutes left in the game.
But Tsipis trusted his players to remain focused and determined.
“I think the resolve of our team showed itself in the last six minutes. I think we had several opportunities to cut it to a one possession game,” Tsipis said. “To be able to continue to plug away, they stepped up to the challenge. And I am really proud.”
Jackson struggled shooting, going 2-for-12 from the field, but she added 11 assists to pace the Colonials on offense. Senior forward Megan Nipe entered the game as GW’s leading scorer with an average of 10.9 points per game, but she was held to only one shot attempt and zero points in the first half. She went 3-5 from the field in the second half, ending with six points in addition to eight rebounds.
Center Sara Mostafa returned from injury to stabilize GW’s interior defense. She added five points and nine rebounds, eight of which were grabbed in the second half of play.
“Everybody stepped up and did something. We talked about how important it was to just keep persevering and I couldn’t be more proud. The team never put their head down. It put ourselves in the position to have a chance to win the game,” Tsipis said.
The win snapped a three game losing streak for the Colonials and gave Tsipis his first victory against a D.C.-area opponent. The Colonials return to the court next Saturday when they host local rival George Mason, and Tsipis plans to use the win over the Bisons as motivation throughout the next week.