The Elon University women’s basketball team lost a heartbreaker to William & Mary on Friday night. The Phoenix stormed back from 10 twice and even forced overtime, but could not hang on, falling 84-74 in overtime.
The Phoenix came out with noticeable energy on defense, forcing turnovers and bad shots from the William & Mary offense. Graduate student guard Lenaejha Evans started off blazing, sinking a deep corner mid-range followed by back-to-back threes, catapulting Elon to a 10-4 lead. As the quarter progressed, Elon started to lose track of William & Mary’s shooters, allowing the Tribe to climb back via the three. At the end of the first, Elon led 23-20.
The second quarter was a nightmare for Elon. The three-point line continued to be a safe haven for William & Mary, who was able to tie it at 28-28 with 6:40 left until halftime. Redshirt freshman guard Kamryn Doty answered back with a three of her own, the penultimate score of the half. For the remaining 6:19 of the quarter, William & Mary dominated. Formidable defense and attacking the rim allowed the Tribe to go on a 14-2 run to end the quarter. At half, William & Mary commanded a nine point lead, 42-33.
Out of the locker room, Elon refused to roll over. Intense defense and scoring production from Evans helped the Phoenix to a 7-0 run, bringing it within one. Elon held William & Mary to 5-17 shooting in the quarter, but The Phoenix found itself down by four entering the fourth.
Evans had a spectacular night, logging 23 points and nine rebounds in a team-leading 42 minutes played. She continued her hot shooting, going 9-17 from the field and 3-5 from three. However, Evans said she is not focused on the points.
“I’m not really focused on that,” Evans said. “Just trying to give the best I can give.”
Head coach Charlotte Smith said nothing but praise for her graduate student guard.
“She’s played a huge role in the last few games with her aggressiveness in transition,” Smith said. “Her leadership on the offensive end and bringing energy and excitement, which does a lot for this team.”
The two teams battled all the way throughout the fourth. Doty cashed a tough sidestep three to make it 58-55, still in favor of the Tribe. Freshman guard Chloe Williams followed with a layup, closing the gap to one. The Tribe continued to penetrate the Phoenix defense and answered back with an and-one. A few possessions later, graduate student guard Riley Casey sank a pull up to allow the Tribe to go ahead by four.
Evans took matters into her own hands, draining a wing three. With 2:20 remaining, the Phoenix only trailed by one point. Fast forward one minute and 50 seconds, the score remained 69-68. Elon hunkered down defensively for a badly needed stop and had a chance to win the game with 30 seconds left. With Schar Center in a frenzy, Evans drove left, missing the contested layup before getting the foul call. Evans missed the first, and with the game on the line, she swished the second free throw to send the game to overtime.
Elon was able to score five quick points to go up 74-72. From there, Casey, the William & Mary graduate student, took over. Casey, averaging 17.7 points on 40% from three this season, was a point of emphasis for Smith and the Phoenix. Smith said Casey is a dynamic player, and wished the team could have shut her down earlier in the night.
“The game plan was to take away her right hand, which we unfortunately did not do for most of the game,” Smith said.
Casey caught fire in overtime, sinking a transition triple, assisting a wide open teammate and then finding freshman forward Kayla Rolph for an open dagger three. William & Mary ended the game on a 12-0 run, shutting down the Phoenix and securing their sixth win in the last seven games by a final score of 84-74.
“We have to get better defensively,” Smith said. “The message to the team was to have pride in your defense.”
The Phoenix played well and battled hard, but eventually defensive mishaps caught up to them. Fortunately, it will have a week of rest and defensive preparation for a Friday night showdown against Monmouth University in Schar Center on Feb. 17.