Girls basketball: Akers has 33 points as No. 7 Princeton earns win over GW
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over the last several years, the George Washington girls basketball program has enjoyed tremendous postseason success.
The Patriots made it to the state tournament semifinals the past two seasons, and were looking for a third straight trip on Tuesday night when they hosted No. 7 Princeton in the regional final.
The Tigers, though, ended GW's quest for another state tournament berth, and Princeton advanced instead with a 71-66 victory over the Patriots (16-9) in front of a boisterous crowd of about 500.
All five Princeton starters are seniors.
"It's a helpless feeling and I'm disappointed, but at the same time, I want to commend Princeton and their accomplishment of winning the regional," George Washington Coach Jamie LaMaster said. "Maybe there is something to be said that my group knows what it feels like. Maybe they had a little more on the table than we did."
Despite the tough loss, LaMaster is proud of his team's accomplishments over the last few seasons.
"We won the East (division) three of the last four years. We won the sectional championship three years in a row. We found ourselves in the regional final for the third year in a row and just came up a little short tonight."
With the victory, Princeton (19-5) advances to the state tournament for the first time in four seasons.
"We knew we had to come up here and play a good game," Princeton Coach Debbie Ball said. "GW has a really good team. I have been working with these kids for three and four years. They had so much heart and it paid off for them."
"I'm at a loss for words," said Princeton senior guard Mckenzie Akers, who led the Tigers with 33 points. "I'm so happy. I'm a senior and this is the right way to go out. We all wanted the same thing to go to states and we are now. It means everything."
GW looked to be in control, leading by 11 in the second quarter on its way to a 40-33 halftime lead. However, Princeton went on a 9-0 run early in the third quarter to tie the game, causing a back-and forth battle the rest of the way.
The Tigers eased out to a five-point lead, 62-57, midway through the fourth quarter, but GW pulled to within two with 57 seconds left.
Akers was fouled and went to the foul line, but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Princeton's Marissa Mullins grabbed the offensive rebound.
Akers was fouled again, sending her back to the line with 42 seconds to play and a 66-64 lead.
This time, Akers made the first and missed the second, but yet again, Princeton's Khadija Payne grabbed the missed free throw, giving the Tigers the ball again. Jessica Inman was fouled and made one of two free throws to give Princeton a four-point cushion it wouldn't relinquish.
LaMaster loses senior Rachel Ward, who scored 12 points and handed out six assists in her final prep game.
"It's a huge loss and I don't know how I'm going to fill that void," LaMaster said. "You're talking about a four-year starter, a 1,000-point scorer, all-state, all-county, all anything you can think of. That's my No. 1 concern coming into next year."
LaMaster does return junior Kelli Jo Harrison, who went over the 1,000-point mark during the loss to Princeton Tuesday on her way to a 30-point, 16-rebound performance.
"Congratulations to Kelli for scoring her 1,000th point," LaMaster said. "That's huge for her career. I know they would rather have the win, though. She's going to be a huge part on what we are doing next year."