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GW women’s basketball

Junior Yuta Watanabe won this year's dunk contest at Colonials Madness. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Junior Yuta Watanabe won this year’s dunk contest at Colonials Madness. Dan Rich | Photo Editor

With 28 days remaining before the basketball season official begins, Colonials Madness showcased new players, highflying dunkers and a dancing coach.

On Friday night, both the men’s and women’s basketball programs welcomed parents, students and fans to the Smith Center and introduced them to the Colonials’ 2016-2017 rosters during the annual parents’ weekend event – which used to be titled Colonials Invasion.

“[Colonial Madness] went great. It was a very, very nicely done event,” women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti said. “These kind of events are for the students. Our student athletes, the cheerleaders, the spirit team and of course the student body here. GW seems to be excited about our upcoming season of athletics.”

To start the night, several student groups, including the First Ladies dance team, GW Cheer and The Colonial Army pumped up the crowd.

The reigning Atlantic 10 champion women’s basketball team off the event, revealing a similar roster to last year’s 26–7 lineup.

They return A-10 All-Conference first teamer senior Caira Washington, as well as senior starters Shannon Cranshaw and Hannah Schaible.

The Colonials also introduced the team’s three new faces. Graduate student Lexi Martins, freshman Kendall Bresee and freshman Harper Birdsong all join the team.

“I’m really excited about our three newcomers. Obviously Lexi has college experience and I think she will add a lot to our post position,” Rizzotti said. “Kendall and Harper, both as freshman, have a lot to learn but I have seen some really good flashes out of both of them so it is just a matter of them continuing to adjust.”

Rizzotti closed out the women’s introductions showing off some of her own dance moves. Her rendition of the moonwalk and the worm received a standing ovation from her team and the crowd.

Then men’s basketball took the court. Familiar faces like senior Tyler Cavanaugh and junior Yuta Watanabe highlighted the roster. But the squad also has seven new faces.

The Colonials will have to look to graduate student Patrick Steeves and the six freshmen to become impact players if they are going to complete interim head coach Maurice Joseph’s goal of hanging another banner in the rafters.

In his sixth year with the team, Joseph takes on a new role in the program. After the departure of former head coach Mike Lonergan in mid-September, GW named Joseph as the interim head coach.

“It is a lot to go through, especially as a young team. But it has been great,” Cavanaugh said. ” Since Mojo got the job, all of the assistants are working together, we have had great practices and we are moving forward because we have got to get ready for a tough schedule.”

Four fans came to the court to go head-to-head against players. The team of freshman Colin Smith, sophomore Kelsi Mahoney, Martins and two GW fans took home the victory in the skills challenge.

The last — and most anticipated — event of the night was the dunk contest. Senior Matt Hart, freshman Justin Williams and Watanabe competed for the highest score on their dunks.

Despite a late and possibly illegal entrance to the competition by Smith, Watanabe won over the fans and came out on top.

In less than a month, the men are set to host Bowie State in an exhibition game on Nov. 5 before both Colonials squads officially open their seasons Nov. 11.

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Women's basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti remembers going up against the late Pat Summitt. Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti remembers going up against the late Pat Summitt. Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

By 1995, Tennessee had already won three national championships under head coach Pat Summitt, appeared in 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments and solidified itself as a titan in the world of Division I women’s basketball.

On Jan. 16 of that year, the No. 1 ranked Lady Vols travelled north to take on an undefeated No. 2 Connecticut program on the rise. The Huskies roster featured budding stars Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters and junior starting point guard Jennifer Rizzotti.

Rizzotti, named head coach of GW women’s basketball this spring, knew her team was an underdog in the first-ever meeting between the two powerhouses.

The Huskies won 77-66.

“There was a tremendous amount of hype around the game and I think we were underestimated,” Rizzotti said in an interview Wednesday. “What Pat Summitt built at Tennessee, and the standard that she set and how badly all of us players at UConn wanted to beat them was just a testament to the respect that she garnered with her program because they were the standard. Everyone in the country was trying to catch them.”

Summitt, who began coaching in 1974 when she was just 22 years old, died Tuesday at the age of 64, five years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

In her 38 years coaching the Lady Vols, Summitt led Tennessee to a staggering 8 national titles, 31 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 1,098 wins—the most of any DI basketball coach, male or female.

Another career highlight of Summitt’s was leading Tennessee in one of the greatest rivalries in college hoops — one Rizzotti, and the sports world, won’t soon forget.

The epic head-to-head series between Tennessee and UConn spanned 12 years and 22 contests, four of which had national championships on the line, thrust the women’s game into the national conversation for the first time and epitomized Summitt’s legendary influence on the sport.

The teams’ second meeting was just a few months later, at the 1995 NCAA Championship. UConn entered the game at 34-0.

Despite her team’s perfect record, Rizzotti recalls Tennessee still being favored.

“People had said, well UConn wouldn’t have won if they hadn’t played at home,” Rizzotti said. “So they definitely aren’t going to beat [Tennessee] two times in a year and again it was just proof of how much people thought Pat Summitt could pull off anything.”

But the Huskies pulled off a win once again, this time by a score of 70-64. While the victory capped a historic campaign captained by head coach Geno Auriemma, Rizzotti credits Summitt with playing a part in that team’s unprecedented success.

“[Summitt] was such a competitor, she drove her team to be so hard to beat, they played so hard and I would say that we have to give her a lot of credit for the rise of the Connecticut program and where it’s come from that day,” Rizzotti said. “She pushed all of us to be better.”

Tennessee would exact revenge the following year, ousting UConn from the NCAA Tournament in the Final Four during Rizzotti’s senior season, and claim back-to-back-to-back national titles between 1996 and 1998.

The annual regular-season series between the schools was discontinued in 2007, and the sides haven’t met since. UConn currently leads Tennessee 13-9 in the all-time series.

In her 17 years coaching at the University Hartford, where she led the Hawks to four America East Conference championships before coming to Foggy Bottom, Rizzotti never faced off against Summitt, but always was someone she looked up to in her profession.

“One of the things you always hear about her is how hard she was able to drive her kids because of how much she cared about them,” Rizzotti said. “If you want to bring out the best, there has to be a personal relationship that extends beyond the basketball court and when you watch all of these former players and the outpouring of love and respect that they have for her, you know that she did things right.”

Summitt will also be remembered as a trailblazer for women in the college athletics, beginning her tenure just years after Title IX was passed, a law demanding that federally funded educational institutions provide men and women equal opportunity.

“She paved the way for all of us, men and women that are in the game. And women that are in other sports. She’s set the standard for what it means to have equal opportunity for female athletes,” Rizzotti said. “I can’t imagine how hard it used to be to be a coach or a player back in the 60s and 70s so I’m very grateful to her and all the pioneers of our game.”

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Friday, April 15, 2016 5:53 p.m.

Rizzotti named women’s basketball head coach

Women's basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti makes a statement at a press conference Friday afternoon. Rizzotti was previously the coach at the University of Hartford. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti makes a statement at a press conference Friday afternoon. Rizzotti was previously the coach at the University of Hartford. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Jennifer Rizzotti will be the next head coach of the women’s basketball program, GW Athletics announced at a press conference Friday afternoon.

“I am really excited to be here and I am very aware of the outstanding basketball tradition here at the University.” Rizzotti said. “I know the possibilities that are here. There is no limit for what this women’s basketball team can accomplish and I am really proud to be its next leader.”

Rizzotti, who replaces Jonathan Tsipis who left the program in March, has been the head coach at The University of Hartford since 1999.

Over her 17-year tenure she led the Hawks to five conference championships, six NCAA tournaments, and four WNIT appearances. She has coached 36 players who have won all-conference awards as well as 10 different 1,000-point scorers.

The year before Rizzotti took over in Hartford, they were 8-19 and had never finished in the top-three of their conference. She finished her Hawks career 305-181 (.628), the best winning percentage of any coach in Hartford women’s basketball history.

Jennifer Rizzotti was announced as head coach of the women's basketball team on April 15. Rizzotti brings to GW experience as a player and coach. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Jennifer Rizzotti was announced as head coach of the women’s basketball team on April 15. Rizzotti brings experience to GW as a player and coach. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Rizzotti served as the assistant coach for the 2006 FIBA Americas U-18 Championship before becoming the head coach for both the 2010 FIBA U-18 Championship gold medal winning squad and the 2011 FIBA U-19 Champions. In 2011, USA Basketball named her the National Coach of the Year.

Before coaching, Rizzotti was well known in Connecticut for her playing ability. She won a high school (New Fairfield), college (UConn), and professional championship (Houston Comets) during her career as a point guard. As a member of the Huskies she averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game and was part of the first national championship team at UConn. In June of 2013, Rizzotti was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

The Colonials return three of their five starters in the fall and will try to use Rizzotti’s experience of winning to boost them to their third consecutive NCAA tournament.

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After four years at the helm of GW women's basketball, head coach Jonathan Tsipis has left the program, the University announced Monday.  Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

After four years at the helm of GW women’s basketball, head coach Jonathan Tsipis has left the program, the University announced Monday. Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Matt Cullen.

Jonathan Tsipis has resigned as head coach of the women’s basketball team, the University announced Monday night in a release.

Tsipis and the Colonials finished their 2015-2016 campaign at 26-7 with a share of the regular-season title, and won the A-10 Championship for the second consecutive season. The team received a No. 8 seed in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, but suffered a disappointing first-round loss to Kansas State.

“Over the last four years, Jonathan has restored the outstanding tradition of GW women’s basketball,” Director of Athletics Patrick Nero said in the release. “We’re grateful to him, his staff and the student-athletes he coached for bringing the program back to the top of the Atlantic 10 and into the national picture. As we wish Jonathan luck, we also look forward to the next chapter of excellence at GW.”

In his four years in Foggy Bottom, Tsipis led the Colonials to a 92-38 record. He played a key role in transforming the women’s program from an under .500 squad in 2011 and 2012 to a national contender his final two seasons.

Star senior forward Jonquel Jones, who established herself in Colonial history by collecting career totals of 1,171 points, 961 rebounds, and 177 blocks in three years, was recruited to GW by Tsipis. Jones is projected to be one of the top picks in the upcoming WNBA draft.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Tsipis has been offered the women’s basketball head coaching position at The University of Wisconsin–Madison and is awaiting committee approval of his contract.

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Sophomore Brianna Cummings fights for a basket in GW's loss to VCU on Feb. 20. The Colonials lost to Kansas State Friday in a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament.  Camille Ramasastry | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore Brianna Cummings fights for a basket in GW’s loss to VCU on Feb. 20. The Colonials lost to Kansas State Friday in a first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament. Camille Ramasastry | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Matt Cullen.

With 17 seconds remaining in the game, the Colonials had possession, down two, with a chance to tie it up or go ahead. They swung the ball around the perimeter until it found the hands of senior forward Jonquel Jones on the left side of the floor. Jones rose up and released a three-pointer with the entire stadium watching.

It rattled off the rim and fell into the hands of a Wildcats player, eliminating the Colonials’ final chance at advancing beyond the NCAA Tournament first round.

It was a defensive battle in Columbia, S.C. as the No. 8-seeded Colonials (26-7, 13-3 A-10) dropped their matchup to No. 9-seeded Kansas State, 56-51. The teams combined to shoot only 32 percent from the field, force 36 turnovers and block 21 shots.

“We played like we belonged here today and we were not just satisfied with being in the NCAA tournament. But you know what, Kansas State played a better second half from an execution standpoint,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said.

Coming into the game, the momentum was on the Colonials’ side. They had more than a week of rest after winning their second consecutive Atlantic 10 title and defeating fellow NCAA Tournament participant Duquesne. On the other side of the court, the Wildcats (19-12, 8-10 Big 12) were coming off three straight losses, including a first round defeat at the hands of West Virginia in the Big 12 conference tournament.

That momentum continued for the Colonials early in the game. Their defense stayed active and picked up four blocks before four minutes ticked off the clock. That allowed them to go on an early 6-0 run sinking three open jumpers from mid-range.

The Wildcats, led by junior center Breanna Lewis, did not allow the early struggles to get out of hand. Lewis fought back, sinking all three of her field goals and adding a blocked shot in the first quarter. Along with their improved offense, Kansas State’s defense was keeping the ball out of Colonials senior forward Jonquel Jones’ hands on offense. A last second Wildcat jumper in the paint completed the comeback knotting the game up at 14 at the end of the first quarter.

Lewis slowed down for the rest of the first half and the majority of the second half because of foul trouble. She did not end up scoring for another 28 minutes, but finished with a solid 13 point, eight rebound night after getting back into rhythm in the final minutes.

At the beginning of the second quarter, the Colonials responded with effort on both sides of the floor. Jones got to the line, knocked down her free throw attempts, and recorded her second and third blocks on back-to-back possessions. A jumper and a physical and-one layup by junior guard Hannah Schaible extended the GW lead to 21-16.

The remainder of the play in the quarter was much slower, preventing the Wildcats from closing the gap or allowing the Colonials to pull ahead. There were no made field goals for nearly six minutes before the offense picked up in the final plays. Jones was able to convert a three-point play and junior forward Caira Washington finished a layup to give the Colonials a 31-22 lead going into the locker rooms.

Neither side was holding on to the ball well in the first half, stopping any big runs from happening and keeping the Colonials under pace for their average of 71.8 points per game. Both teams had racked up 11 turnovers including a couple ill-advised passes for each side.

“[The turnovers] got us out of our momentum and shots that we should make didn’t fall,” Jones said. “It was the small stuff.”

Despite the mistakes, both teams moved the ball well and played more of a half-court style. The Wildcats had assists on all nine of their field goals while the Colonials only had one play without an assist in the first half. Graduate student guard Lauren Chase finished the game with only four points and five assists, but she was attacking the gaps in the defense and finding her teammates open all over the court which was valuable in the interior-focussed defense.

The second half started with the Wildcats completely in control. The Colonials had trouble holding on to the ball, turning it over two times leading to two open layups for Kansas State. On their third turnover Wildcats junior guard Kindred Wesemann hit a transition three from the free throw line, bringing the run to 9-to-0 and tying the game up 31-31.

GW got a four-point lead after a layup by Jones and a couple 1-for-2 appearances at the line. That lead was not maintained because the Colonials turned the ball over five more times in the quarter and shot only 2-14 from the floor.

“The turnovers really hurt us. That was the run in the beginning of the second half. We had all the momentum going into halftime. [The turnovers] gave them confidence,” Tsipis said. “It gave them life.”

The Kansas State defense was focused around keeping the Colonials out of the paint and especially keeping the ball out of Jones’ hands. The Wildcats were constantly switching between a 2-3, 1-3-1, and a box-and-one zone to keep the GW frontcourt off balance.

In the final frame, the Wildcats held their lead, but it was never out of reach for either squad. The Colonials fell behind by their largest margin of the game, five points, with under eight minutes to play. Jones led the comeback, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter and facilitating the GW offense through her hands.

“Jonquel did a good job of not getting frustrated. She was 5-for-13 and got to the line 12 times, she had 13 rebounds and six blocks. We just needed a little bit more help,” said Tsipis.

In the end, it came down to free throws and an offensive rebound. After going only 2-9 from the charity stripe in the first half, the Wildcats we able to hit their final two free throws and force the Colonials to take a three-pointer. Those shots were only made possible after Kansas State senior guard Brianna Craig grabbed a long offensive board with only seconds to play, stopping the Colonials from having a chance at the lead.

“I was hoping I’d get one more chance to coach them in practice, one more chance for a shoot around, and to be able to play in a second round game and put ourselves in a position to do great things. But, that doesn’t take away from the great things that we were able to accomplish throughout the year,” Tsipis said.

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Senior Jonquel Jones drives past an American defender on Nov. 17. Jones and the Colonials begin the NCAA Tournament Friday against Kansas State. Hatchet File Photo

Senior Jonquel Jones drives past an American defender on Nov. 17. Jones and the Colonials begin the NCAA Tournament Friday against Kansas State. Hatchet File Photo

The women’s basketball team will be a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament after earning an automatic bid by winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Colonials will face No. 9-seed Kansas State (18-12) Friday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.

GW is in No. 1-seed South Carolina’s bracket, so a win would likely pit the Colonials against the Gamecocks in a second-round game, barring an upset of the Sioux Falls Regional’s top seed by No. 16-seed Jacksonville.

The second-round game will take place on Sunday, March 21.

The selection marks GW’s second NCAA Tournament berth under head coach Jonathan Tsipis, who is in his fourth season in Foggy Bottom.

GW is ranked 23rd in the RPI and enters the NCAA Tournament with a 26-6 record including a 13-3 mark in A-10 play. Including the A-10 Tournament, GW is on a five-game winning streak.

The Colonials entered the season talking of hopes of an Elite Eight or even Final Four run. At least until Friday, those hopes are still alive.

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Sophomore Brianna Cummings fights for a basket in GW's loss to VCU on Feb. 20. On Saturday in Richmond, the Colonials exacted revenge over the Rams in a 72–58 A-10 semi-final decision.  Camille Ramasastry | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore Brianna Cummings fights for a basket in GW’s loss to VCU on Feb. 20. On Saturday in Richmond, the Colonials exacted revenge over the Rams in a 72–58 A-10 semi-final decision. Camille Ramasastry | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Matt Cullen.

Just 14 days ago, the Colonials matched up against the Rams on Senior Night. They lost that game by 11 points, their second in a row, ending their home winning streak and falling further in the conference standings.

In the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinal Saturday, the Colonials got their revenge through a balanced attack and top-tier defense, defeating VCU 72–58 at the Richmond Coliseum.

“Two weeks ago VCU was the better team and was the tougher team. We have only been outrebounded three times in two years and they outrebounded us that day. We talked a lot about ‘could we be the tougher team?’,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “But when you are trying to take steps to win a championship, it is going to be a lot more than just motivation and I think our kids were really locked in.”

Right after the tip-off the Colonials (25-6 13-3, A-10) were sticking to their strengths: playing in transition and rebounding everything. They scored eight points in transition and collected 13 rebounds in the first frame alone.

Despite two possessions in a row with offensive fouls, the GW offense finished the first quarter leading 19–11, going through graduate student guard Lauren Chase on nearly every play.

“We tried to force them to play faster because we are a game ahead. Our legs should be better,” Tsipis said.

GW started off the second quarter with early fouls and multiple missed free throw attempts that allowed the Rams (23-8, 12-6 A-10) to bring the game within four points six minutes before halftime.

Senior forward Jonquel Jones stepped up for the Colonials and seemed to be all over the court defensively. GW then embarked on a run to capture a double-digit advantage for a short time.

Even though Jones didn’t start and played somewhat limited minutes, she had quite a game. Jones notched a double-double with 11 points and 18 rebounds while recording 4 blocks in the paint. She and junior forward Caira Washington combined for 13 offensive rebounds and paced the Colonials to a dominating performance on the boards.

“We just wanted to stick to what we do and for us that’s being one of the best rebounding teams in the country. So, we took it to heart when, last game, we lost the rebounding battle,” Jones said.

The half finished off with neither team having the momentum after matching blocking fouls slowed down the last 15 seconds. After being tied or ahead for the entire game, the Colonials went into the half leading 37–31.

VCU junior guard Ashley Pegram was the Rams leading offensive attack in the first half, scoring 13 points on perfect shooting inside the paint. The Colonials put Chase on her defensively and she was shut down for the rest of the game, shooting just 0-for-2 from the field.

The second half started with a quick jumper from Rams junior guard Isis Thorpe but on the next possessions, the defense picked up.

The Colonials turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions, but the play on their side of the floor was top-notch. VCU made zero of their next 13 field goal attempts and failed to score for the next seven minutes.

The defensive stint, combined with an and-one layup that Jones converted in traffic, supplied the Colonials with lots of energy that carried them to a 53–38 lead going into the final frame.

With less than 10 minutes to go, VCU put on the press. They forced some turnovers, drew a couple fouls, and got momentum on their side. They brought it down to a six-point game with less than two minutes left and forced Jones to pick up her fifth and final foul.

“In these tournament games you know everyone is going to give you their best, they are going to play for 40 minutes and try to use every single tactic to get you out of the game,” Washington said. “We just have to stay up, keep talking to our teammates, and play our hardest.”

The remainder of the game brought the crowd to the edges of their seats. Until the final seconds it seemed like the aggressive Rams team had a chance, but strong interior defense and good free throw shooting at the end sealed the deal to send the Colonials to the A-10 Championship.

Thorpe was ice-cold from the floor after leading the Rams in scoring two weeks ago at the Smith Center. She went 1-for-12 from the field on Saturday and only added four points.

“[Thorpe] had success last time we played them,” Tsipis said. “This time around we started some different people and moved some people around, knowing if someone did get hot we could move Lauren Chase around a bit to guard a hot hand. But, also Hannah Schaible and Brianna Cummings have become better defenders.”

With the win, the Colonials move on to the A-10 Championship final where they will take on No. 3-seed Duquesne on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.

“We are really excited to have a chance to play for a championship tomorrow,” Tsipis said. “We had several goals, first was to be the regular-season champion and then obviously to come back here again.”

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Graduate student Lauren Chase drives to the basket in GW's win against Dayton earlier this season. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Graduate student Lauren Chase drives to the basket in GW’s win against Dayton earlier this season. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Matt Cullen.

On the big stage of the Richmond Coliseum, in their first postseason game of the season, the Colonials frontcourt proved its worth as one of the leading inside attacks in the nation.

Junior forward Caira Washington and sophomore forward Kelli Prange combined for 30 points and 18 rebounds on 59 percent shooting to lead top-seeded GW (24-6, 13-3 A-10) to a 78-48 quarterfinal win over No. 9 seed George Mason (12-19, 6-10 A-10).

“I was really proud of our team because I thought we played to our strengths. I think Caira Washington and Kelli Prange got us started with how they got the ball and how aggressive they were offensively,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “To be in a tournament like this, with the experience we have from last year, you win this tournament with your defense and your rebounding.”

Friday was the third head-to-head matchup in the past six weeks for the Colonials and the Patriots, so they know each other pretty well. The game started off back-and-forth with two lead changes, two ties, and strong defense for both teams. After the first media timeout the Colonials started to pull ahead. Junior guard Shannon Cranshaw hit a three just seconds after the timeout to give GW a five-point advantage.

The Colonials were able to maintain that lead by playing aggressively on their side of the court and forcing Mason to take low percentage shots. The Patriots shot less than 30 percent in the first half and 1-for-9 from behind the arc in the first half.

That aggressive defense continued the entire matchup. The Colonials forced 15 turnovers, blocked five shots, and held the Patriots to 31.7 percent from the field.

Senior forward Jonquel Jones got a warm welcoming from the crowd after making her first appearance since going down with a shoulder injury on Jan. 20. She recorded five points and seven rebounds in a solid nine minutes while imposing her presence on the court, showing that she was back and 100 percent early.

“Everyone was ready and really excited for the first [postseason] game,” said Jones. “And just to be back playing with my teammates is awesome and I just love being out there with them.”

Jones finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in only 13 minutes of play. Despite her lack of playing time, Tsipis insisted that she did not have “a minutes restriction.”

The Colonials extended the lead going into halftime by shooting well themselves. Despite George Mason’s improved 42.9 percent from the field, the Colonials knocked down nearly half their shots including 2-for-4 from three-point range.

In the first half, redshirt junior guard Kara Wright was the sole imposing force for the Patriots. She muscled her way past defenders and got to the hoop, scoring 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

Her production slowed down in the second half when the Colonial defense focused more on her and contested all of her shots. She went 0-for-3 from the field in the final 20 minutes despite playing almost the entirety of it.

After ending the first half down 15, the Patriots were trying to play catch up in the third quarter, but GW’s offense would not let them. Prange and junior guard Hannah Schaible were both efficient and productive with the ball in the paint. Also, graduate student guard Lauren Chase continued her strong play on defense and was dominating in transition.

The matchup between Chase and Patriots redshirt senior guard Taylor Brown that traces all the way back to middle school has finally come to an end – and Chase finished with the upper hand. In all three matchups this season they have matched up up with each other and led their teams. On Friday, Chase’s six points and seven assists may not sound like much, but her defensive impact forced Brown to go just 3-for-16 from the field and only 1-for-7 from deep.

“We go into every game with Taylor Brown knowing that she is such a dynamic offensive player. Lauren Chase has done an amazing job the past two years when she has guarded her. Lauren is just is willing to say I am going to go everywhere possible and be disciplined and if she scores Lauren has the mindset that it is not going to happen again,” Tsipis said.

Back to back impressive and-one buckets from Jones and a buzzer beater three-pointer from Prange brought the lead to 22 before the start of the fourth quarter.

The Patriots did not give up when they were down big in the final quarter, but they were never close to pulling off the comeback. The Colonials defense seemed to get tougher as the game went on (they held Mason to seven points in fourth quarter) and their lead seemed to give them the confidence that they needed to continue shooting well from the floor.

Winning by 30, with two minutes remaining, Tsipis took his starters off but the team did not lose as step. The ability of the bottom of GW’s bench to score displayed their depth and assured everyone that they could stay in the game even if the starters are not performing.

“We tried to get everyone under 30 [minutes]. The minutes that Shannon Cranshaw and [freshman guard] Mei-Lyn Bautista can give us are good, but also the experience of someone like [freshman forward] Kelsi Mahoney experiencing her first A-10 tournament is the bigger picture.”

The Colonials move onto the semifinals of the A-10 tournament on Saturday, where they will play No. 5 seed VCU. Tip off is scheduled for 11 a.m.

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Sophomore Brianna Cummings drives to the basket in GW's win against Richmond earlier this season. Ashley Le | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore Brianna Cummings drives to the basket in GW’s win against Richmond earlier this season. Ashley Le | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Marty Fenn.

The Colonials head to Richmond this weekend as the top seed for the A-10 conference tournament, after winning the head-to-head tiebreaker over Duquesne and Saint Louis on the last day of the season, as Duquesne lost to St. Bonaventure.

The Colonials finished the season with consecutive wins over the Patriots and Richmond, and went 7-3 in the last 10 games of the season, all without the presence of all-conference second team forward Jonquel Jones. Jones could return, as she has reportedly been making progress and participating in practices, would be a boon for the Colonials, who enter the postseason seeking redemption for their first-round exit in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

The Colonials earned an automatic bye into the quarterfinal round on Friday, taking on No. 9 seed George Mason at 11 a.m., but they could be pitted against some intriguing adversaries in future rounds as well – even though rival Dayton, the No. 8 seed entering the tournament, is already out thanks to the Patriots.

Teams to Watch:

No. 4 St. Bonaventure/ No. 5 VCU: Both teams would be a tough semifinal for the Colonials, should any of the three teams get to that point. GW fell in consecutive games to both teams, including an overtime loss to the Bonnies despite winning the rebounding battle 49-30 and shooting 8-13 from the three-point line. The Colonials committed 20 turnovers in that game.

VCU was the other team to gain the rebounding edge over the Colonials, and have an interesting dynamic in that their guards possess strong rebounding abilities, much like the Colonials. The Rams shoot over 40 percent from the field, while holding opponents to just 55.3 points per game, and forcing over 17 turnovers a game. With their ability to matchup in the rebounding department and force turnovers, the Rams pose a strong challenge to the Colonials.

No. 3 Duquesne/No. 2 Saint Louis: How will the Dukes respond to losing out on sole possession of the regular-season title in the final game of the year? Look for Duquesne to come out with a vengeance. This team can score, and they can definitely crash the boards, as proved by conference Co-Player of the Year April Robinson’s stat line (15.3 ppg, 6.6 ast, 6.1 rbs). Although the Colonials defeated Duquesne 70-52 on the road in January, Jonquel Jones dominated that game with 23 points and 18 rebounds, and the Dukes shot just 30 percent, which were both huge in the final result. Don’t expect such a blowout if these two teams meet in the final, especially with Jones’ status still uncertain.

As for the Billikens, it took a superb double-double performance from Lauren Chase (19 pts, 10 ast, 1 TO) and efficiency in the paint and past the three-point line for the Colonials to pull off an 89-80 win. The Billikens possess a lethal inside-out combination, with guard and Co-Player of the Year Jackie Kemph controlling the perimeter and All-Conference Third Teamer Sadie Stipanovich filling it up in the paint. Stipanovich scored at will in the second half against GW, who had a hard time deciding on a defensive scheme to counter the Billikens’ offensive attack. If these two meet, the final could be quite explosive.

Potential Sleeper: Fordham

A lot hinges on whether or not Jones returns. If she is able to play immediately the Colonials should be a huge favorite to at least reach the final, if not to win the tournament. That being said, the A-10 has had loads of twists and turns, and anything could happen.

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Sophomore Brianna Cummings drives to the basket in GW's win against Richmond earlier this season. Ashley Le | Hatchet Photographer

Sophomore Brianna Cummings drives to the basket in GW’s win against Richmond earlier this season. Ashley Le | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet senior staff writer Alex Kist.
In their season finale against George Mason Saturday, the Colonials got back to basics.

Just like in the first Revolutionary Rivalry game this season, junior forward Caira Washington, junior guard Hannah Schaible and sophomore forward Kelli Prange stole the show in a 73-66 win in Fairfax, Va.

The Colonials finished the regular season with a 23-6 record and 13-3 record in Atlantic 10 play.

Washington was a trailblazer, amassing 10 of her 18 total points in the first half. Schaible notched a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Prange got good looks down low for 11 points.

“We still played through what our biggest strength is, and that’s sharing the basketball,” head coach Jonathan Tsipis said.

Freshman guard Mei-Lyn Bautista notched nine assists and Schaible racked up seven. Graduate student guard Lauren Chase finished with two. All fed the inside to contribute to GW’s 20 points in the paint.

George Mason (11-18, 6-10 A-10) hung with Colonials (23-6, 13-3 A-10) for the entire first frame, preventing the top-rebounding team from collecting many offensive boards. Both teams were efficient in the paint and got hot at the end of the quarter.

Both teams fired back-to-back three pointers. The Patriots put up a quick bucket to knot the game at 16 to close the quarter.

In the following frame, the Patriots revealed their kryptonite: turnovers. GW amassed 23 points off turnovers in the first half alone. George Mason only scored five points in the second quarter, marking the third-straight game in which the team scored seven points or less in the second quarter.

“Lauren Chase played really good defense on Taylor Brown and we made sure we were always in the right spots when they were setting screens,” Washington said. “Things like that on defense really helped us make them turn the ball over.”

In the second quarter, the Colonials went on a 12-0 run en route to a 19-point lead heading into the locker rooms.

GW’s defense was relentless in the first half, rolling out man-to-man coverage and a few double teams to force George Mason to take well-contested shots. The Colonials won the battle of the boards, taking a 39-32 advantage over George Mason.

In the third frame, the Patriots got fired up and cut the lead to nine with success from beyond the arc. However, GW retaliated and kicked its lead back out to 19 after a side layup from Chase and jumper from Prange.

After nine unanswered points to open the third quarter, the Patriots struggled to convert in the paint and were forced to take outside shots.

Senior guard Taylor Brown peaked from downtown, though, and notched three straight treys to get the game within six points. Even with the 10-0 run, GW switched up its defense back to man to silence Brown, who remained scoreless for the remaining two minutes and 40 seconds.

“I think the response at the end was you are going to put the game on the line with the people that, in that specific game and all year, have proven to step up big for you,” Tsipis said. “That’s what makes Caira an all-conference level player and Hannah different from pretty much anybody else in the league.”

Senior forward Jonquel Jones is still inactive, and Tsipis said she will continue to be monitored on a day-to-day basis. On Saturday, she practiced in warmups and worked on ball handling and shooting skills, according to Tsipis.

He said he should find out new information on Monday. The Colonials begin Atlantic 10 play on Friday at 11 a.m. as the No. 1 overall seed following a Duquesne loss Sunday. The Colonials and Dukes are co-regular season champions but the Colonials own the tiebreaker.

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