William and Mary suffered a home loss to the College of Charleston last Sunday to drop the Tribe’s Colonial Athletic Association record back to .500. With only one game this week, the College was looking to rebound from the loss and move its conference record to 3-2. Elon entered Sunday’s game against the Tribe also with a .500 mark in conference after losing to North Carolina-Wilmington last Sunday. The Phoenix won the CAA tournament last season, eliminating the College in the CAA quarterfinals, but the Tribe won last year’s matchup at Kaplan Arena.
Dec. 20, the College (10-6, 3-2 CAA) overcame a deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to win a close game, 65-60, over the defending CAA Champion Phoenix (7-9, 2-3 CAA).
“We’re a confident group,” head coach Ed Swanson said. “We know what we have to do — play well — and we need to continue to work. … They need to do the hard stuff in practice, the hard stuff in games. Today we did that, and if we do that again we’ll be successful again.”
The College got off to a slow start offensively, going scoreless for nearly three minutes. However, the Phoenix had multiple turnovers in the opening three minutes, allowing the Tribe to take the lead with its first field goal. Senior guard Bianca Boggs hit a three pointer to give the College its first lead of the afternoon, 3-2. Boggs had five of the Tribe’s first six points before assisting on a layup by freshman guard Eva Hodgson. Hodgson’s bucket put the College up 8-4, as the Phoenix had more turnovers than points before the media timeout at the five-minute mark. The Tribe ultimately finished its 8-0 scoring run on a three-pointer by senior guard Misha Jones, before the Phoenix stopped the bleeding and cut their deficit to five, 11-6. Nevertheless, the College continued to stretch its advantage, taking a double-digit lead with two minutes remaining in the opening quarter. The Phoenix were able to get within six points by the end of the quarter, but the Tribe still held an 18-12 edge after 10 minutes.
At the start of the second quarter, the College was able to re-establish a double-digit lead in the first two minutes by scoring the first four points of the quarter. Redshirt sophomore Harper Birdsong provided a spark for the Tribe off the bench with five quick points in the second quarter, giving her eight points in her first seven minutes of action. The College’s lead ballooned to as much as 13, but the Phoenix reeled off seven straight points to get within six, 27-21, at the midway point of the quarter. The Tribe also suffered from foul trouble late in the first half, with seven fouls in just over seven minutes and Boggs and Birdsong on the bench with two fouls apiece. Freshman forward Emma Krause helped the College to weather the storm with two three-pointers late in the first half, giving the Tribe a 36-31 lead at the break.
The College scored the first two points of the second half, but the Phoenix responded with a 9-0 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the first quarter. Guard Ariel Colon made a driving layup to put the Phoenix up 40-39 with 5 minutes, 40 seconds to play in the third quarter. Birdsong responded with a three to put the Tribe back on top, but the Phoenix answered with five consecutive points. The Phoenix benefitted from eight offensive rebounds in the first six minutes of the quarter. The Tribe only managed to score eight points in the first eight minutes of the quarter, but baskets by Boggs and Hodgson down the stretch kept the College within striking distance with one quarter remaining. The Tribe trailed 51-50 at the end of the third quarter.
“We’re really resilient,” Swanson said. “When things got tough, we made some plays that we needed to make.”
Jones took a charge for the Tribe at the start of the fourth quarter, and Boggs took advantage of it at the other end, making a layup to put the College back on top, 52-51. However, with 7:57 remaining, Boggs picked up her fourth foul and went to the bench for a couple of minutes. Nevertheless, the Tribe managed to stretch its lead to seven points with Boggs out of the game. Jones hit her second three of the game with just over six minutes left to put the College up 61-54. The Tribe still led 62-57 at the 3:33 mark when Boggs returned to the game. On that possession, Boggs made one free throw to stretch the lead to six after sophomore center Gabby Rogers came up with a tough offensive rebound to extend the possession.
“We knew this game would be a 50-50-type game, so I just knew that we had to play every possession like it would be the game changer,” Rogers said. “That was what was going through my mind, and I just made the play.”
However, Boggs fouled out of the game with just over a minute left, and the Phoenix got within three points, 63-60. They had the ball, trailing by three points with 30 seconds to play, and missed two three-pointers before Jones grabbed a rebound and was fouled with a chance to seal the win for the Tribe. Jones hit both free throws to clinch the 65-60 victory over the Phoenix.
“I just try to do simple things,” Jones said. “I don’t try to do anything too crazy.”
In the loss, the Phoenix were led by forward Jaylin Powell’s double-double on 13 points and 11 boards. The Tribe was led by Boggs and Birdsong, who each had 13 points. The College returns to action next Friday night on the road against James Madison. The Tribe lost both of its regular season games against the Dukes last year but will look to build on the momentum from its victory over Elon and beat another top team in the CAA.
“We anticipate or expect a game just like today,” Swanson said. “We have the utmost respect for James Madison. … We’ve got to be hungry for that, and I think we will be.”