RICHMOND, Va. - Two big three-pointers in the final four minutes by George Washington junior Kelsi Mahoney helped the Colonials quell a final Dayton rally to knock off the top-seeded and defending champion Flyers, 58-53 in the first semifinal of the 2018 Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship Saturday afternoon at the Richmond Coliseum.
George Washington made eight of ten free throws in the final two minutes to seal their first victory over Dayton in three tries this season, advancing to the Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship Game for the third time in four years. The Colonials won the title in both 2015 and 2016.
In a physical encounter, the Colonials handled the basketball brilliantly, only committing one turnover, while executing defensively, as Dayton committed eleven turnovers and shot 32.7 percent from the floor.
"Good day for GW! We beat a really, really good basketball team today," said Colonials head coach Jennifer Rizzotti, who will coach in the championship game for the first time on Sunday. "We've learned a lot from the games we played against them. (Dayton) set the standard for the Atlantic 10 this year, so not just to win, to have a chance to play for a championship, but beating a team that was the best in the league all year long, I'm just really proud of my players."
Third-Team All-Conference member Brianna Cummings paced the Colonials with fifteen points and six rebounds, while freshman Neila Luma, who averages 6.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, finished with a double-double with twelve points and ten boards.
Kelli Prange finished with ten points and eight rebounds, while Mahoney scored all twelve of her points from beyond the arc, including critical treys with 4:07 and 2:04 remaining in the fourth period. Mahoney believes the difference today, as opposed to the Colonials' two losses to the Flyers in the regular season, came down to intangibles.
"I don't think there was much difference in the X's and O's, I think it was our heart and determination," Mahoney noted. "We sure as heck weren't going to lose to a team three times this season, so all of us that came in, we did our jobs and we executed."
Dayton (23-6) had four players in double figures, led by Jayla Scaife with twelve points, while First Team All-Conference guard Jenna Burdette scored seven of her eleven points in the fourth period. JaVonna Layfield and Lauren Cannatelli each contributed ten points, Layfield registering a double-double adding twelve rebounds.
"George Washington came in and played extremely well. We didn't hit shots that we normally hit," noted Dayton head coach Shauna Green. "This doesn't take away what we've accomplished this year. To win a regular season championship, I'm so proud of them and the fight they've had. We have a lot of basketball left to be played."
The Colonials will now prepare to face the winner of Saint Louis and Saint Joseph's for the championship on Sunday.
"You're talking about a team that's had to make big strides and
The opening tip for tomorrow's championship is set for noon and will be televised by ESPNU.