Having donned shirts celebrating a conference championship, each member of the women’s basketball team climbed a ladder on the Smith Center court and snipped off a piece of the hoop’s netting as a keepsake.
Bit by bit, they clipped apart the strings that, just minutes before, had been pushed side to side by a flurry of GW baskets in the team’s 80-45 blowout over George Mason Sunday that clinched the Colonials Atlantic 10 regular season championship.
“We were in an unbelievable attack mode from the very beginning,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “It’s one thing to score the ball, but so many of the opportunities we got were because of how aggressive and disciplined we were defensively and understood what we could be able to do with a game plan.”
Midway through the second half, sophomore guard Hannah Schaible ran down the court off the break for a layup. There wasn’t a defender in sight for the Patriots, who the Colonials then led by 41 points. Schaible led all players with a career-high 18 points in the game.
The guards, especially senior guard Chakecia Miller and senior Lauren Chase, controlled the flow of the match beginning in the first half where they combined for seven assists. GW continued to display depth from the perimeter, finishing with 20 assists on 33 made baskets.
“The focus on key players was important, when they go into double and triple team, J.J. and our low post players, just moving for the ball, moving to my teammates and helping them out, I was able to knock down shots,” Schaible said.
The Revolutionary Rivalry matchup against the 12th place Patriots may not have seemed like a gimme, something the team could overlook with the conference championship looming one week away, but GW was locked in from the start.
The Colonials jumped out to a 16 point lead, and the whole game was essentially a big GW run. The Colonials shot 9-13 in the first eight minutes of play, including two three-pointers from junior forward Jonquel Jones and sophomore guard Shannon Cranshaw.
George Mason showed some signs of life late in the first half and notched a layup and two jump shots to pull within 20 points. But GW was able to kick the lead out to 45-22 after Miller knocked down a smooth jumper going into halftime. GW headed into the lockers shooting 55.9 percent from the field, achieving offensive success by getting out in transition and being “crisp on the ball”, according to head coach Jonathan Tsipis.
Fresh out of the locker room, Jones and Chase notched back-to-back layups, forcing the Patriots’ head coach to call a timeout. Even with an extra moment to refocus, George Mason continued to scramble, allowing GW to take advantage of defensive holes in the paint and extend the lead to 59-24 after an 8-0 run.
Cranshaw soared with a three-pointer to push GW’s lead to 67-28. Accumulating 11 fast break points, GW proved it could keep the Patriots’ defense on it’s toes with guards running coast to coast and dishing out accurate entry passes.
The Colonials only coughed the ball up 11 times and were able to notch 27 points off of 23 George Mason turnovers.
The Colonials also finished with 26 bench points to the Patriots’ 19, including three-pointers from freshman guard Mia Farmer and junior guard Aaliyah Brown in the final five minutes of play, and as the final buzzer sounded the Colonials had officially locked the best record in the Conference over last year’s regular season champions Dayton.
“To win the championship outright was something we had talked about over the last week, Tsipis said.”We had the opportunity to control our own destiny.”
With a first and second round bye, the Colonials will compete in the quarterfinals of the tournament in Richmond on Friday. GW will face the winner of the Nos. 8 and 9 seed game at 11 a.m.