Monday, March 06, 2006

Carl in Charge

If Carl Elliott makes any more miracle shots at GW, he is going to have to hire an agent to negotiate a contract with the producers of the upcoming remake of the classic Helen Keller biopic. Last year it was a steal and 40-foot buzzerbeater at Dayton. Saturday it was an overtime tip-in to extend GW's win streak to 18 games, improving what was already the best record in the country to 26-1. Elliott was not the only hero as GW stole the game from Charlotte to complete an undefeated Atlantic 10 season. Down by three in the closing seconds of regulation, Mike Hall got a good look at a three-pointer but barely drew iron only to have Maureece Rice collect the rebound, bring it out to the corner and tie the game with an off-balance trey.

Hall made his own contribution in the overtime. With less than 11 seconds to play and the Colonials trailing by two, Hall grabbed the jersey of Leemire Goldwire as the players pursued a rebound. Goldmire lost his cool and retaliated by swinging his elbows; Hall got called for the foul, but Goldmire got a technical. Charlotte made only one of two free throws but Hall made both of his, setting up GW's final possession.

In terms of the best finishes in GW history, this one not only tops Elliott's dramatic heave at Dayton but also Shawnta Rogers' jumpshot to beat Xavier, Vaughn Jones coast-to-coast layup in double-overtime at Xavier and Yinka Dare's catch and layin of a full-court pass from Bill Brigham at Rutgers.

You couldn't ask for a more pressure-filled environment. GW's win came on Senior Day as the school recognized a class that has rescued the program from mediocrity and not only restored it to national stature but to historic heights. Playing without starting center Pops Mensah-Bonsu, the Colonials beat a team that was 6-1 in conference road games and scrambling to get onto the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Mensah-Bonsu's replacement, fellow senior Alex Kireev, contributed the first omen of the day when he knocked down a three-pointer on GW's first possession. You'll forgive Charlotte for not covering him out there; it was the first three Kireev had attempted, let alone made, in three years. On the day, GW got 12 threes from seven different players, which has to be a school record.

It was a big day for firsts and records. Rice got the first dunk of his college career, as if to prove that he really can score any way he wants to. Rob Diggs made an amazing full-speed layup that somehow did not get a foul call. Of course Danilo Pinnock had a ferocious alley-oop slam, and, as he seems to do almost weekly, Omar Williams lured his man out to the top of the key before crossing over and blowing past him to throw it down. All of these incredible shots were just prologue, setting the stage for a fitting ending to a wonderful regular season.

These kinds of wins give teams the perfect attitude for the postseason. The Colonials now have the swagger that can intimidate the opposition and the knowledge that anything is possible if they keep playing hard. For all those who complained that GW's schedule was too soft and would not prepare them for the NCAA Tournament, Saturday showed that the Colonials could not be in better condition to find out just how special this season will turn out to be.

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