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University of the District of Columbia Women’s Basketball Team Overcomes Slow Start, Earns First ECC Road Win Over Bridgeport, 51-44

Junior guard Janelle Junior knocked down a Firebirds go-ahead three-pointer in the first half.
Junior guard Janelle Junior knocked down a Firebirds go-ahead three-pointer in the first half.

BRIDGEPORT, CT –  The University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team overcame a slow start in the first half to earn its first-ever East Coast Conference road win, 51-44 over University of Bridgeport on Saturday afternoon.  

The Firebirds, who were without leading scorer Jamilia Bonner (Mobile, AL – Williamson HS) for a third straight game, used a game-high 21 points by senior guard Lauren Brittingham (Washington, DC – Potomac HS) to win their second straight game and improve to 12-3 on the season (3-2 ECC). District of Columbia also held the leading scorer in the conference, Bridgeport's Tanisha Carter, to 12 points, six under her season average. The Knights had their two-game win streak snapped as they fell to 5-11 overall and 3-3 in league play.

Senior forward Dohnay Banice (Wilmington, DE – Williamson HS) scored the first point of the afternoon on a 1-of-2 trip at the line at the 19:02 mark, but the Firebirds would go scoreless for the next nine minutes of basketball while the Purple Knights went on a 10-0 charge. The hosts led 12-3 at the 9:16 mark  when Brittingham ignited an 11-0 Firebirds run with two consecutive buckets. Later during the run, Brittingham found junior guard Janelle Junior (Riverside, CA – La Sierra HS) alone in the corner, and Junior buried a shot from behind-the-arc to put her team in front, 14-12 with 5:10 left in the half. The two teams traded baskets and free-throws the rest of the way, with UDC coming out ahead 23-20 at the intermission.

Bridgeport would pull within a point on three separate occasions in the first eight minutes of second half play, but a 10-4 Firebirds run ending with a Brittingham jumper pushed UDC to a 38-31 advantage with 9:15 to play. Later, a layup by Banice (nine points, 13 rebounds) put the Firebirds up 45-37 just past the five-minute mark, but Bridgeport's Aziza Patterson scored the game's next five points to cut the lead to three, 45-42 with 1:45 showing on the clock. The next trip down the floor, Brittingham drove to the basket and drew a Purple Knight foul. She knocked down both her free-throws at the 1:15 mark and again with 39 seconds left to give UDC a seven-point cushion, 49-42. Junior came through with a pair of free-throws with 18 seconds left as UDC made 6-of-6 in the final 1:45 to win the game, 51-44.

Neither team shot well, but District of Columbia held a 31-percent to 26-percent advantage from the field. The Firebirds also made just 2-of-12 from three-point range, but held Bridgeport without a made three-pointer in 11 attempts. UDC also held a narrow 44-42 rebounding edge and outscored the Knights 20-16 in the paint.

"This was a poor shooting game for both teams but our defense was great today, and it was key down the stretch to get the win," head coach Lester Butler, Jr. said. "Ty Abilla and Aida Gueye gave a big spark off the bench defensively which helped us get back into the game in the first half. Lauren [Brittingham] and Dohnay [Banice] continue to step their games up and they executed the offense well in the second half."

The Firebirds host ECC foe Mercy at the UDC Gym on Wednesday, January 18th at 5:30 p.m. Eli Pearlstein will call the action via a live video broadcast of the game courtesy of Stretch Internet.