RICHMOND, Va. - The Dayton Flyers captured their first Atlantic 10 Women's Basketball Championship since 2012, ending the Cinderella run of seventh-seeded Duquesne with a 70-56 victory Sunday afternoon in the title game at the Richmond (Va.) Coliseum to clinch a return to the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship after a one-year absence.
Dayton (22-9) erased an eight-point Dukes lead with a 14-3 run in the final 5:10 of the first half to take a 32-29 advantage to the locker room. The Flyers never relented, shooting 53.8 percent from the floor in the second half. Redshirt senior Kelley Austria led Dayton with 20 points, including two key three-pointers within a three-minute stretch in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
JaVonna Layfield added 15 points for the Flyers while Saicha Grant-Allen registered a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman Jayla Scaife had 11 points.
"They just have this belief and confidence about them that they weren't going to lose," noted Dayton's first-year head coach Shauna Green. "Duquesne scared me, their offense has impressed me all year. (Kadri-Ann) Lass played so well; she gave us problems for the full forty minutes."
Green, who returned to Dayton after being named head coach in September following the resignation of long-time leader Jim Jabir, reflected on how the Flyers adjusted from that surprising change, and grew as a team to be able to hoist the championship trophy.
"The biggest thing is they lost their coach. It was sudden, and hard for them," Green said. "My biggest concern was to take care of them, while I was recruiting. Knowing them and being at Dayton before, made the transition as good as it could be."
The aforementioned Lass led Duquesne (18-15) with 19 points and six rebounds, while Amadea Szamosi and Conor Richardson each added 12 points for the Dukes, who ended the day 20-of-58 from the floor, a 34.5 percent performance.
"This team has been everywhere from Paris to Budapest, to San Francisco at Thanksgiving, and finally to Richmond," said Dukes head coach Dan Burt. "We shared some tears today, but I couldn't be more proud. You couldn't ask for a better group of women than this team. We had some losses we shouldn't have had, but never once were they ever not great representatives of Duquesne University. Some shots just didn't fall today."
Dayton junior guard Jenna Burdette was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the Atlantic 10 Championship and was joined on the All-Championship Team by teammates Austria and Grant-Allen. Also named to the team were Szamosi of Duquesne and Jackie Kemph of Saint Louis.
The Flyers will find out their NCAA destination when the Women's Championship field is announced on Monday, March 13th.