RICHMOND — George Washington senior Jonquel Jones began the Atlantic 10 women’s basketball tournament title game against Duquesne on Sunday as a reserve. It was a precautionary measure, because Jones recently returned after missing 10 games with a shoulder injury.
Yet the forward finished in a familiar spot — cutting down one of the nets following her team’s 63-60 victory before 2,673 at Richmond Coliseum. With the win, the top-seeded Colonials (26-6) clinched an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive season.
Jones was a big reason. She finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Jones was particularly important in the fourth quarter. The third-seeded Dukes (27-5) had all the momentum after senior April Robinson made a three-pointer for a 55-52 lead as the third quarter expired.
The fourth quarter was a different story: The Dukes went 1 for 19 from the field and missed their final 14 shots.
“We went dry,” Duquesne Coach Dan Burt said. “Tonight, I thought we had good looks. They had Jonquel Jones. . . . In 19 years [of coaching] she might be the most disruptive defensive player I’ve seen. Her length, she’s just so mobile. She’s an incredible player.”
In the final quarter, Jones also helped out on offense. She scored on consecutive possessions, including a jumper as the 30-second shot clock expired for a 63-57 lead with 2 minute 2 seconds to play.
Junior Hannah Schaible finished with 17 points for the Colonials, and classmate Caira Washington added nine points and 12 rebounds.
As dominant as Jones was, she had help.
The Colonials had a three-point lead and possession with 17 seconds left. But they committed a turnover — they didn’t inbound the ball within five seconds. The Dukes had a lifeline.
They designed a final play for Robinson. It wasn’t a surprise, given that Robinson was a two-time All-Met at West Springfield High and last week was named the Atlantic 10 co-player of the year.
The Colonials had a counter move. Washington defended the perimeter and stood tall as Robinson took her off-balance three-pointer. The shot missed as the buzzer sounded.
“We had Caira contesting April Robinson two and three times,” GW Coach Jonathan Tsipis said. “And Jonquel down in the paint made a huge difference in that fourth quarter. They couldn’t get an open look.”
The Dukes are likely to receive an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament considering they are ranked in the top 25 in the Rating Percentage Index and their 12 road victories are the second-most in Division I. On Sunday, senior Deva’Nyar Workman had 19 points and Robinson added eight points and six assists.
The game-within-the-game featured Robinson and GW senior Lauren Chase. In the team’s only regular season meeting, Chase held Robinson to zero points on 0-for-7 shooting; the Colonials won, 70-52.
Early on Sunday, Robinson had the edge — in the first three minutes she scored a three-pointer and a jumper as the Dukes took a 10-3 lead. And though she had assists and helped her team lead for much of the day, Robinson herself went scoreless after her quick start until her three-pointer at the end of the third quarter, a span of 27 minutes.
The fourth quarter was fraught with tension after Chase picked up her fourth foul with 5:13 to play. From the bench, Tsipis helpfully yelled, “Lauren, no more fouls!” He then hedged his bet by removing Chase and charging sophomore Brianna Cummings with guarding Robinson. Cummings did enough to keep the Dukes on their cold streak.
Yet the final story was Jones. She was the All-Met Player of the Year at Riverdale Baptist in 2012 and is a likely first-round pick in the WNBA draft. She returned to the lineup from her injury for the conference tournament — in other words, just in time.
“All year we’ve had games that have put us in tough situations,” Jones said. “We know we had to put a lot of emphasis on defense coming into this tournament. . . . We just wanted to let our defense close the game out for us no matter what. Sometimes the shots aren’t falling, but the defense is something we can always hang our hats on.”