Overtime Thriller: ODU Returns To CAA Final With Overtime Win
March 8, 2002
NORFOLK, VA -- Top-seed and host Old Dominion University survived a major scare in its quest for an 11th consecutive CAA crown with a 68-63 overtime victory over #5-seed George Mason University in the semifinals of the 2002 Alltel CAA Women's Basketball Championship.
"I don't think we ever lost faith," ODU coach Wendy Larry said. "There were certainly opportunities for us to fold. We haven't been tested like this in the conference," she continued. "I can't say enough about how we continued to fight and fight to the end."
GMU took a 54-48 on back to back buckets by sophomore guard Jen Derevjanik. The second Team All-CAA selection nailed a three-pointer from the right corner and followed with another bucket a possession later. Freshman forward Danielle Chambers hit one of two free throws at the 4:05 mark to increase the margin to 55-48, the largest deficit that ODU has faced this season versus a conference opponent.
The Monarchs went on an 8-1 run to close out the half and send the game into overtime. Junior guard Okeisha Howard (Va. Beach, VA) sank two free throws with 0:10 remaining to knot the score at 56. After a timeout, GMU ran the ball upcourt and called another timeout with 0:01.5 remaining. Inbounding underneath their own basket, the Patriots got the ball to Derevjanik who missed a spinning five-footer off the rim as time expired.
"The play was designed for a curl, but it didn't work out," said Derevjanik. "I had a good look but the shot didn't drop."
It looked the Lady Monarchs were finally going to dispatch GMU when they scored the first seven points of overtime. But the pesky Patriots responded with a 7-0 spurt of their own to tie the game at 63 with 1:26 remaining. On the ensuing ODU possesion, Howard hit a trey from the right corner to put the Monarchs up three with 1:01 left on the clock. Free throws by Lucienne Berthieu (Rennes, France) and Hamchetou Maiga (Bamako, Mali) accounted for the final margin.
"In overtime, we picked up our intensity," Howard said. "They gave us a second chance."
"We were playing for very high stakes that a lot of teams have tried to attain," Larry said.
After scoring a combined eight points in the two earlier meetings with ODU this season, Derevjanik led all scorers with 19 points, 14 after halftime, and added four assists. Sophomore guard Vernessa Neamo tallied a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore forward Keka Agba played a great inside game for the Patritots, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 caroms.
"To play ODU like this in the CAA tournament-on their homecourt-makes a statement about our program," said GMU coach Debbie Taneyhill.
Larry was impressed with the play of Derevjanik and Agba.
"She (Derevjanik) attacks very, very well," Larry said. "She's as good as anybody at doing that. Today she got to the rim on a number of occasions."
"I thought Agba was incredible," Larry said. "She helped us remember her name forever."
Howard overcame poor shooting for much of the night to finish with a team-high 18 points. Senior forward and CAA player of the Year Lucienne Berthieu (13 points, 10 rebounds) and first team all-CAA forward Hamchetou Maiga (11 points, 10 rebounds) each posted double-doubles. Sophomore guard Monique Coker (Bronx, NY) added 12 points.
The overtime thriller marked only the sixth time in CAA Championship history that a game had gone extra minutes and only the second time that a #1 seed had been sent to OT.
The first half was closely contested and featured ten ties and three lead changes. ODU jumped out to an early 8-5 advantage on a bucket by Berthieu. GMU then reeled off eight unanswered points capped by a Neamo bucket to take the biggest lead of the half at 13-8. A 5-10 sophomore guard, Neamo tickled the twine for 14 first half points as the Patriots converted 13 of 29 field goal attempts in the opening stanza. GMU limited ODU to just 38.2% accuracy (13-of-34) from the field while forcing seven turnovers as the two teams went into the locker room deadlocked at 29. It marked the first time this season that the Lady Monarchs did not own at least a four-point lead at the break against a CAA squad.
ODU advances to tomorrow night's championship game and will face #6-seed UNC Wilmington which upset #3-seed VCU on Thursday and #2-seed Delaware earlier this evening.
"I think Wilmington is a possessed team," said Larry. "We are looking forward to the battle."
The 7:00pm championship game will be televised live by Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.