Ward shrugs off sickness, leads GW past Capital 60-44
Rachel Ward's status heading into Wednesday night's Class AAA Region 3 Section 1 semifinal was up in the air as George Washington's junior guard battled sickness.
But in the wake of her performance, Patriots coach Jamie LeMaster may start distributing her medication to the rest of the team.
Ward provided a consistent offensive threat on a night when not many could be found as she turned in a team-best 17 points and sparked GW to a 60-44 win over visiting Capital.
GW led by just five at halftime, but Ward knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and had 10 third-quarter points to help the Patriots pull away.
"Rachel has not been feeling well lately and to be honest, coming into the game I didn't know how long or what I was going to be able to do, but I knew I would stick to my starting lineup and go from there," LeMaster said. "Fortunately for us, she was able to play through it. She stepped up. She's on a real hot streak right now."
"I didn't feel like usual, but I still gave my all," Ward said with a cracking voice. "I knew that I had to play and I wasn't going to let everyone down."
Ward was also part of a strong defensive effort as GW held the Cougars to just 15-of-64 shooting from the floor, including 4-for-28 in the first half.
Despite the loss, Capital had a big season, doubling its win total from last year and finishing 14-10.
Cougars coach B.J. Calabrese said his team, which entered Wednesday on a seven-game win streak, defied odds all year, despite the disappointing ending.
"Coming out in the first quarter, physically we're playing hard but mentally we just made some mistakes," Calabrese said. "Defensively we played hard, but offensively we got out of our rhythm and started doing some things we aren't capable of doing.
"I'm extremely proud of the kids. A lot of people didn't think we'd win 14 games this year. We doubled our wins from last year, but we're certainly not satisfied. We felt coming in that we could win the game. I thought physically, we gave a tremendous effort. We left it all on the floor, but we just weren't smart enough at times and it hurt us."
The Cougars were also hurt early when Tanijia Spencer was called for her second foul with 4:52 remaining in the first quarter. The Patriots seized the lead at that point, and never relinquished it.
Alexa Peoples added 14 points and Adrian Cunningham 12 for GW. Spencer scored a game-best 22 points for the Cougars.
George Washington will host Parkersburg South at 7 p.m. on Friday in the section final. South beat GW twice during the regular season, and LeMaster said he is eagerly awaiting a third showdown between the teams.
"I keep telling the kids, 'The teams left aren't here because they aren't any good, they're here because they're quality teams and it's going to get tougher,'" LeMaster said. "This game is going to come down to, are we going to be the No. 1 team and host [in regionals], or are we going be the No. 2 and go down to [Greenbrier] East and try to win. How do we want to do it? We control our own destiny.
"I think my kids will respond. The old saying that's been around for a long time about beating a team three times, especially in my gym twice ... I know they're looking forward to it and so are we. I'm really looking forward to it."
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