Drexel to Play Delaware For The Conference Championship
March 12, 2021 –
This game is another story that can be added to the history of the rivalry between the Drexel Dragons and the James Madison University Dukes. The third seeded Dragons win an overtime thriller behind a career-high 35 points from guard Keishana Washington. It was her first collegiate 30 point game and was the most scored by a Drexel player in CAA Tournament history.
“It started at the beginning of the game,” said Washington about her performance. “My teammates and my coaches told me to stay aggressive from the start. Once I got it going I felt like my teammates kept getting me the ball. They trusted me to make plays, and that’s what I did.”
And Drexel needed it to match a career-high 31 points from JMU guard Kiki Jefferson.
“Keishana stepping up like she did today, we know she has it in her and were waiting for this game,” Drexel Coach Amy Mallon said about Washington. “And this is the time you have to do it. It’s CAA Tournament time and your best players have to step up and play best.”
This game being more about defense is a key for Drexel as they could dictate the tempo of the game when they create turnovers, forcing 20 by JMU. That lead to an 18 – 6 advantage in points off turnovers. And it slowed down the JMU offense when the faster pace favored the Dukes. The ability for the Dragons to be disruptive, create offense from defense, let them play their style.
“When shots aren’t falling, not getting shots you want every time, the defense and the intensity and being aggressive has to step up a little more,” Mallon said. “Even when they made their little run, our leaders said let’s not stop going at them, we’re not going to stop now and start stepping back. I didn’t have to tell them that. That shows they really comfortable with what we do and they know it works.
James Madison led 39 – 29 at halftime. Drexel would respond with a 13 – 2 run to start the third quarter, taking the advantage. At the end of the quarter Kate Connolly hit a three-pointer to put the Dragons ahead 55 – 46. Drexel won that quarter by a 26 – 7 margin.
Then the Dukes turn won the fourth quarter 19 – 10. JMU tied the game with 20 seconds left on a basket by Jefferson. A last shot by Drexel did not go when a layup by guard Hannah Nihill rolled around the rim and fell away. Overtime. The Dragons needed poise and resolve to get the game back.
“This is a situation we’ve been in many times before,” Washington said. “Everyone was poised knowing that we had to take it one possession at a time, value each possession. I think we did a great job with that.”
Drexel got out to a 6-point lead and needed every point. A Nihill free throw with 54.4 seconds remaining pushed the Dragons to a 75 – 69 lead. Jefferson got the next 5 pulling JMU to within two. Coming to the wire Nihill missed a shot, but Washington snagged the offensive rebound, and went to the line making one. JMU got two more free throws, then sent Washington back to the charity stripe, She made both, and Nihill stole the inbounds pass to seal the win.
Nihill scored 16 points and had 3 steals. The other Dragons player to break double-digits getting 11 points was Connolly. She also pulled down a team-high 8 rebounds.
Jaylin Carodine and Brianna Tinsley scored 10 points each. Jefferson snared 11 rebounds, 9 off the offensive glass.
Drexel will play Delaware for the league championship on Saturday, and a chance to match the Drexel Men’s team in winning the conference title.
“Absolutely, I think it’s great that the guys were able to do that and hope tomorrow we are able to do the same,” Washington said.
“It’s so exciting and I think our girls are going to be ready to go,” Mallon said. “The challenge going is with our men winning the tournament, that gives them a little extra boost too.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian