PHILADELPHIA – Led by its three seniors, third-seeded Elon University women’s basketball advanced to the CAA Semifinals on Thursday night, March 8, with a 67-50 victory over sixth-seeded William & Mary at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
“We’re definitely excited to come away with the win,” said Elon head coach Charlotte Smith. “It was not the prettiest win but we’ll take it. I’m excited about the senior leadership displayed by Malaya Johnson and the energy she brought to the game trying to get everybody over the hump. We’re excited to get the win and to move forward.”
The Phoenix, now a winner of a Division I program record 11 games in a row, stands at 23-7 on the season. William & Mary has now lost six in a row and stands at 16-14 after the CAA Quarterfinals.
Elon’s senior trio of Johnson, Shay Burnett and Meme Garner combined for 35 of Elon’s 67 points to go with 29 rebounds, eight blocks, six assists and five steals. Johnson closed with a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds to go with a career-high seven blocks.
The Phoenix opened the game on an 8-3 run to go up five with 5:27 to go in the opening quarter. Down the stretch, it was held scoreless, but William & Mary only managed four points with Elon taking an 8-7 lead to the second quarter after the two teams shot a combined for 5-for-29 from the floor.
Ra’Shika White took over in the second quarter on the way to building a 13-point lead nearing halftime. The sophomore Second Team All-CAA honoree and CAA Sixth Player of the Year scored eight points in the frame and helped the Phoenix shoot 8-of-16 from the floor. During the quarter, Elon led 19-17 after a Nyla Pollard layup with 3:56 to go before halftime, but it went on an 11-2 run in the final 3:28 of the half behind five points from Johnson, four points from Garner and a layup off the hand of White.
Midway through the third, William & Mary cut Elon’s lead to as few as eight after a Nari Garner three-pointer and a three-minute scoring drought for the Phoenix. But Elon responded out of a stoppage with a pair of buckets in 25 seconds from Garner and Jaylin Powell to go back up 12 at 38-36 with 3:25 left in the third. Throughout the fourth quarter, William & Mary twice came back within nine of the Phoenix at 46-37 with 7:31 to go and at 58-49 with 1:23 to play. Elon answered both single-digit margins with runs, though, with a 6-0 run to answer the first nine-point advantage and a 9-1 run to finish the game in the final 62 seconds.
Johnson’s 13 points and 11 rebounds both finished as team highs. Garner also had 12 points and missed a double-double by one rebound. Burnett also approached triple-double territory with 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists to go with three steals. White closed the night with 12 points in 14 minutes on the floor.
Abby Rendle was the only member of the Tribe to score in double figures, finishing with 19 points in 37 minutes to go with 10 rebounds for the double-double. Pollard’s eight points finished second on the team. Victoria Reynolds added four points and three steals to go with 10 rebounds. Jenna Green closed the night with seven points and six assists.
-The Phoenix has now won four tournament games in a row going back to the start of the 2017 tournament.
-Johnson’s 11 points sets a new CAA Tournament high for the Phoenix, surpassing the 10 by Burnett last year against James Madison and the 10 by Jenifer Rhodes against the Tribe.
-Burnett tied the previous tournament high for a Phoenix with six assists. She matched her own mark last season against James Madison and Essence Baucom’s six against William & Mary.
-The Phoenix is now 2-0 against William & Mary in the CAA Tournament. It beat the Tribe 88-60 in the CAA Semifinals last year in Harrisonburg, Va.
-Elon has it streak of three consecutive CAA Tournament games shooting above 50 percent snapped in shooting 45.0 percent Thursday. Last year in Virginia, the Phoenix didn’t shoot any lower than 52.6 percent in the CAA Quarterfinals against Hofstra, a 78-50 win.
-Eight of White’s 12 points came in the second quarter alone.
With the win, Elon sets up a matchup with second-seeded James Madison in the CAA Semifinals on Friday evening, March 9, at 5:30 p.m. at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Last year, Elon and JMU met in the CAA title game in Harrisonburg, Va., with the Phoenix earning a 78-60 win over the Dukes, the first win over James Madison since joining the CAA.