CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In spite of its slow start, George Washington still has everything on the table that it had hoped to accomplish when the season started.The host Patriots took a step in that direction Tuesday night as senior Rachel Ward scored a game-high 21 points, including 11 in the second half, in a 65-61 come-from-behind victory over Parkersburg. A crowd of about 400 attended the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference East Division clash of unbeatens.GW, the three-time defending East Division titlist, went to 4-0 and the only other unbeaten team left in the division is Princeton (3-0). The Patriots host the Tigers on Feb. 16.The Big Reds suffered their first loss in the division and now stand at 3-1.
"I think it's a situation where GW is in control of its own destiny,'' said Patriots coach Jamie LaMaster, whose team has won five straight after three losses in four games. "It's still wide open for us to reach one of our many goals. That's the first one coming up. We've put ourselves in position.''Ward made that possible with an outstanding performance on Senior Night. She made 6 of 7 free-throw attempts in the final 47.2 seconds to seal the victory. None were bigger than when Ward sank a pair to set the final score with 5.3 seconds after Parkersburg senior guard Megan Morrison drilled a 3-pointer to slice the deficit to two points.Ward also helped key a third-quarter rally with five points as GW outscored the Big Reds 25-13 to take a 51-46 advantage into the final period. She set the tone by knocking down a 3 nine seconds into the second half. The Patriots trailed 33-26 at halftime and that was made possible after Ward netted five straight points to close the opening half."We just knew we weren't playing to our ability and we had to check our attitudes,'' said Ward, who made 6 of 9 shots from the floor and 3 of 5 from long range. "We weren't really working on the things we needed to work on. We just all came together. It helped me a lot with it being Senior Night. We just weren't playing another game. It was for us [seniors] and the win just felt incredible.''Junior post player Kelli Jo Harrison added 12 points, including 10 after the break, with nine rebounds and three blocks for GW (11-4), which was No. 10 in this week's Associated Press poll. Patriots sophomore guard Alanna Mobayed chipped in nine points, 10 boards, seven assists and four steals while senior guard Kayla Stewart had eight points. "Halftime was pretty colorful,'' said LaMaster, who has guided GW to the state tournament semifinals the past two seasons. "They accepted my challenge. I was really pleased with the way they responded. It showed me a little bit of what they're made of and their character.''"We're getting better every day,'' added Ward. "We're not to where we need to be and we know that. We're still working on the little things. That's what keeps us going; we know we're not at our peak. We still have that conference championship in our head and that's our goal right now.''Senior forward Imani Ward netted 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and came up with three steals for Parkersburg (10-8), which had won six of its last seven coming into Tuesday. Big Reds senior center Kennedy Walker added 14 points and 11 boards and Morrison finished with 13 points and 10 assists."We knew [George Washington] was going to come out hot [in the third quarter],'' said Parkersburg coach Kenny DeMoss. "We knew they were going to make a run. The problem for us in the second half, we weren't mentally able. We turned the ball over too much."We'd play good defense and go down and throw the ball away. We outscored them every quarter but the third. The difference between us and them, they have that state tournament experience and they kind of leaned on that.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.