Senior guard Danni Jackson maneuvers down the court against St. Bonaventure. Hatchet File Photo by Jordan Emont | Photo Editor
Just stay calm.
With adrenaline and energy high in the first round of the A-10 championship- just stay calm. When an early 15-2 lead slowly becomes a 49-49 tie game- just stay calm. And when the opposing defense swarms to foul you with the final seconds ticking away- just stay calm.
Not always an easy task in playoff basketball, but a task nonetheless that the Colonials were able to complete in their 59-53 win over Richmond.
The win marks the first A-10 tournament victory for first-year head coach Jonathan Tsipis, and the first A-10 tournament win for the Colonials since 2007.
“When you play a team the second time and both teams have had five days to prepare for each other, they’re gonna be able to take away a lot of your initial actions,” Tsipis said. “It’s just, can you get to that next part to really put your kids in the position to make a play.”
For the start of the first half, the story wasn’t who would make the next shot for the Spiders, but when the Spiders would make their next shot.
Using their motion offense effectively, Richmond was able to find a lot of open looks, but nothing could find the bottom of the net. Shot after shot rattled off the rim and then immediately, GW went pushing it down the other end of the court.
The Spiders started the game on 1-15 shooting, compared to GW’s 54.2 percent, and would go on to shoot just 26.5 percent in the first half.
“I thought we had the game at the tempo we wanted,” Tsipis said. “We got out in transition, we attacked off the dribble, we made the extra pass, and had some really good reads by our point guards, but I think we were just kind of in that attack mode.”
After an early 2-2 tie, GW went on a 15-0 run to give it the biggest lead of the first half, 13. Playing as the home team because of their higher seed, the Colonials were certainly getting some home team rolls at the Hagan Arena.
With each made basket and each Richmond miss, the already unprecedented level of energy just continued to go up- especially on defense.
Using their full court press sporadically throughout the first half, the Colonials grabbed some key steals and added on to the pressure Richmond was already feeling. GW took away the inside option from the Spiders, forcing them to pass it along the perimeter and chuck up shots from all over the court.
Slowly but surely though, shots started to fall for Richmond. Making use of their height advantage, Richmond dominated the offensive glass, 15-7 by game’s end, to put up some much-needed second chance points. While GW struggled at the free throw line, the Spiders flourished, going 13-15 in the game and using them to slyly creep back into contention.
Richmond finished off their slow first half comeback with a second chance bucket from Becca Wann, cutting the lead to six and giving them some confidence going into halftime.
“It was a loud environment. I thought early on we were a little more vocal with some of our actions and communications defensively,” Tsipis said. “I think as the half wore on, you know, they made some shots and I think we got a little bit quiet with our communication.”
The second half showcased the hard-fought tournament style battle that was expected. Going back and forth on each possession, GW had to work hard to maintain its five, four, and sometimes two-point lead.
With 6 minutes and 29 seconds left to play, Richmond finally tied up the game. And then just over thirty seconds later, with Kristina King at the free throw line, the Spiders finally overtook the Colonials- their first lead since they grabbed the first basket of the game.
GW stayed tough though, keeping their heads and body language up as they headed down the home stretch.
“We just talked a lot about [how] both teams are equally as tired,” Tsipis said. “And there’s gonna be a lot at the end of just your will, and it’s the loose ball, it’s keeping them off the glass, it’s being able to defend without fouling.”
Combining timely shooting with a stronger presence on the boards, GW took away Richmond’s second chance efforts and forced them into one-and-done possessions. The Colonials stayed calm, and climbed their way to the 59-53 victory.
GW had three players in double figures- senior guard Danni Jackson who led the team with 13 points; senior forward Megan Nipe who followed up her last strong shooting performance with another, going 5-10 from the field to record 12 points; and finally, senior forward Shi-Heria Shipp who added 10 points to the stat sheet, but made her biggest contributions to the team on the court in the form of her enthusiasm and tough play late in the game.
For Richmond, two players, Kristina King and Becca Wann, carried the majority of the load, scoring 16 and 17 points respectively. Wann also grabbed a team-high 12 boards to put up a double-double effort in the loss.
With the win, the Colonials will move onto the quarterfinals where they will face No.1 seeded Dayton. The Flyers are also ranked No.11 in the country, making tomorrow’s task for the Colonials a daunting one.
“Obviously Dayton’s ranked 11th in the country for a reason- they’re very balanced,” Tsipis said. “I think the biggest thing, or our key, is gonna be how we match up in transition for the full 40 minutes. We did it for about 16 minutes at Dayton earlier in the season and then they went on a run to close the half. So I think the big part now is just taking care of our team.”