Coming home after an overtime loss against Drexel (20-7, 13-2 CAA) and a bounce-back win against Delaware (10-16, 6-9 CAA), William and Mary (20-7, 11-5 CAA) outfought Elon (12-15, 7-9 CAA) in a promising start to its three-game homestand Friday, Feb. 28, at Kaplan Arena. With an energizing 74-61 win, the Tribe set a school record with 20 regular-season wins, maintained its third-place spot in the Colonial Athletic Association and clinched no worse than the No. 4 seed in the CAA Tournament.
“It’s a big accomplishment for us as a team,” senior forward Victoria Reynolds said. “I just hope that we can get better and get 21, 22 … And I want the younger players to continue that throughout their career.”
With Friday’s win, the Tribe moved one-win shy of having its winningest season ever in 100 years of Tribe women’s basketball. If the College earns one more win in either of its two remaining home games, it will pass the 20-win record set in 1993-94 and 2016-17, and will break the school record of 11 CAA wins.
In addition to team accomplishments, the Tribe also saw a record-setting individual performance by sophomore guard Eva Hodgson, who led all scorers with 27 points. With about seven minutes left in the second quarter, Hodgson broke the Tribe’s single-season record of 537 points, set by Lynn Norenberg ’81 when she sank a 12-foot jumper in the paint.
“It’s cool,” Hodgson said. “But I think the 20th win meant more to me. And I know that we still have a lot of history we can make this year, so I’m more excited for that.”
During the rest of regulation, Hodgson added 16 more points beyond what she needed to set the record. She finished shooting 8-of-14 from the field, 1-of-4 from three and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line.
Part of the winningest class in program history, Reynolds added 20 points as the Tribe’s second-highest scorer, shooting 6-of-10 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line.
During the game, the College kept its lead locked up against the Phoenix, dropping to a tie only once early in the first quarter. The Tribe never trailed, and withstood runs by Elon in the third quarter to keep its lead well ahead of the Phoenix. In the fourth quarter, the Tribe iced the Phoenix to win the game, shooting 87.5 percent (14-of-16) from the free throw line.
Outpacing and outplaying the Phoenix on offense, the Tribe scored 14 points off fast breaks, while Elon scored only four. The College also scored 20 points off turnovers, while Elon had 16.
The game began with the Tribe charging ahead to an early lead, which Elon soon caught. Reynolds and Hodgson sank back-to-back jumpers on their first two possessions to bring the Tribe ahead 4-0, before Phoenix guard Brie Perpignan sank a jumper to make it 4-2. Hodgson made two free throws, and redshirt sophomore guard Sydney Wagner, coming off the bench for Reynolds, added another two to make it 8-2 for the Tribe. But Phoenix forward Jaylin Powell made two straight layups and guard Saadia Munford made two free throws to bring Elon back 8-8 in the single tie of the game.
Then on a fast break, with an assist by junior center Gabby Rogers, Hodgson made a driving layup and drew the foul on Phoenix forward Micaela Ryan, sinking the free throw to make it 11-8 for the Tribe. After shooting the free throw and finishing the three-point play, the Tribe stayed ahead of the Phoenix for the rest of regulation.
During the rest of the first quarter, the Tribe outscored the Phoenix 12-4 to bring the lead to 23-12. Wagner, junior guard Nyla Pollard and freshman guard Chiniqwa Gillam all sank threes late in the period.
In the second quarter, the Tribe kept its lead as the Phoenix began heating up on offense. The Tribe stayed ahead with 16 points, shooting 58.3 percent (7-of-12) from the field, while Elon scored 15 points and shot only 26.7 percent (4-of-15).
With less than two minutes left in the period, the Tribe took its largest lead of the night. Reynolds scored a jumper and junior reserve Bailey Eichner added a layup, with an assist by Hodgson, to bring the lead up to a game-high 17 points. Elon scored the next five points off of free throws and a jumper. At halftime, the Tribe led the Phoenix 40-28.
In the third quarter, the Tribe struggled to contain Elon as the Phoenix caught fire and turned up the heat. The College took a 16-point lead with about eight minutes left, but Elon went on a run and came within five points of catching the Tribe late in the period. A second-chance layup by Reynolds stopped the run and brought the lead back up to seven, 50-43. During the third quarter, the College scored five fewer points than Elon, shooting only 33.3 percent (4-of-12) from the field and 50 percent (2-of-4) from the free-throw line.
The fourth quarter opened with a 6-0 run from the Tribe that brought the lead back up to 13. After a back-and-forth battle with Elon, the Tribe increased its lead to 16 with a jumper in the paint by Reynolds. The Phoenix never burned out completely and continued to bring some heat on offense, but the College iced Elon from the free-throw line, shooting 87.5 percent (14-of-16). Hodgson and Reynolds combined for 11-of-12 free-throw shooting.
The Tribe ended the period with a 13-point lead to win the game, 74-61.
The Tribe saw major production from its reserves in the win, the team’s seventh in its last eight games. Wagner finished with 11 points as the Tribe’s third-leading scorer and Eichner brought a strong versatile performance with five points, nine rebounds and three assists.
The Tribe will face Towson (14-12, 9-6 CAA) Thursday, March 5, and James Madison (22-4, 13-2 CAA) Saturday, March 7, to finish its three-game homestand and conclude the regular season.
With one more win against either team, the Tribe will record its best season in its 100-year history, but neither win will come easy, head coach Ed Swanson said. James Madison sits tied with Drexel atop the CAA rankings, and Towson, although ranked No. 4 in the conference, still poses a threat as the reigning CAA champion.
But Swanson added that he thought the Tribe still had a good chance to make history as the regular season ended.
“I think the hard work is paying off,” he said. “And I still think this team hasn’t reached its ceiling yet … I still think we have a long way to go.”