American University 62, Lafayette 48: Eagles defeat Leopards in final regular season contest
AU finishes 20-8 on the season and 13-5 in Patriot League play
With Wednesday’s victory, the Eagles clinched the second seed in the Patriot League tournament.
“We’re obviously really excited,” senior Jade Edwards said postgame. “As seniors, you just look forward to the games that are gonna decide the season.”
The Eagles were led by Edwards’ double-double scoring 13 points and recording 10 rebounds along with sophomore Emily Johns’ 19 points and two rebound outings.
AU couldn’t find consistent rhythm shooting the ball through the first five minutes of the contest. The Eagles shot 3-8 from the field and 0-3 from distance only collecting six points off Edwards and senior Emily Fisher.
The slow shooting start along with seven unanswered Leopard points led to head coach Megan Gebbia calling AU’s first timeout of the game after being down 7-6 after five minutes of play.
Coming out of the timeout, Gebbia subbed out senior Laura Graytok and turned to Johns to step up and play important minutes. Edwards connected on back-to-back layups followed by a Fisher jumper to put AU up 12-11.
AU slowly began to find their rhythm with some gritty hustle plays after shooting 38 percent from the field with 12 points after the first 10 minutes.
Coming out of the quarter timeout, Johns got back-to-back layups to go after starting the game 0-2 from the field. Fisher then extended the lead up to 19-11 after draining a pull-up three from well beyond the arc.
After a jumper from Leopards freshman Kylie Favours, Edwards converted on her first three of the game to push the lead to nine for the Eagles. Junior Karla Vreš made her first basket of the game to take a 24-13 lead with 3:39 left in the half.
Senior Maddie Doring then went on to hit a tough three-pointer for her first points of the game with under two minutes left in the half. AU would eventually lead 27-15 heading into halftime.
AU finished the half behind Edwards’ nine points on 66 percent shooting and Fisher’s nine points and two assists. As a team, AU shot 39.2 percent from the field and 33 percent from distance.
Immediately coming out of halftime, Lafayette freshman Abby Antognoli made her first three of the second half to cut the AU lead to 27-18.
After Lafayette senior Makaila Wilson made a layup to narrow the Eagle lead to seven, senior Naomi Ganpo scored on back-to-back layups to put Lafayette down 27-25 heading into the first Eagle timeout of the half with 7:19 remaining in the quarter.
“We had a lull in the third quarter defensively with transition and second-chance opportunities,” Gebbia said postgame. “We showed a lot of maturity when they cut it to two, and we found a way to get the ball inside to [Johns] to give us some breathing room.”
Following the timeout, the Eagles scored 5 straight points in under a minute off a Johns layup and Fisher 3-pointer to take a 32-27 lead over the Leopards. Lafayette stopped the run with a Wilson made layup, but Johns got hot shortly after. Johns sank her fourth layup of the night to put the Eagles up 34-29, leading to another Leopard timeout with 4:40 left in the quarter.
Both teams struggled after the Leopards timeout, turning the ball over consecutively until Johns got fouled and made a free throw to push AU’s lead to 35-29.
The AU home crowd was tense after Lafayette junior Jessica Booth converted on a layup, but got electric when Johns was fouled and hit both free throws for her 11th point of the game.
“I had to smile because this kid is on fire today, and I’m so happy for her,” Gebbia said of Johns’ performance.
After Johns made both attempts from the line, Antognoli made a jumper to narrow AU’s lead to six. Sophomore Ivy Bales came back shortly after to hit a jumper, putting the Eagles up 41-33 with 2:11 remaining in the quarter.
The Leopards stayed persistent though, making back-to-back jumpers from freshman Claire Gallagher and Antognoli to bring the score to 44-38 at the end of the quarter. Vreš helped the Eagles back to an eight-point lead after making a layup, followed by a Doring layup of her own to put the Eagles up 10, 48-38.
Another AU run was inevitable after Johns made another layup in the paint. However, with AU settling for 3-pointers, Lafayette went on a 6-0 run, but AU still had the lead intact, 50-46.
After a Lafayette turnover, Doring made a layup which led to a momentum swing that ended up going the Eagles way. The AU defense forced multiple shot clock violations and went on a 10-0 run to close the game following another Lafayette layup.
Edwards’ 13 points and 10 rebounds led the Eagles, her second double-double of the season. Johns also had a huge game, scoring 19 points and grabbing two rebounds.
The American University Eagles look to extend their season this Monday inside Bender Arena in the Patriot League Quarterfinals at 7 p.m. EST.