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University of the District of Columbia Women's Basketball Staves Off Late Pioneer Run; Wins 75-72

Senior guard Lauren Brittingham led UDC with game-highs of 23 points, seven assists and seven steals.
Senior guard Lauren Brittingham led UDC with game-highs of 23 points, seven assists and seven steals.

WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team had to survive a frantic C.W. Post charge in the final two minutes of play, but the Firebirds hung on to beat the Pioneers, 75-72 in East Coast Conference action at UDC Gym on Saturday afternoon.

With the win, District of Columbia improved to 14-3 overall and moved past C.W. Post into second-place in the ECC standings with a mark of 5-2. The Firebirds also remained undefeated (8-0) at home this season. The defending ECC Tournament champion Pioneers fell to 13-6 overall and 5-3 in league play.

"This was a big win today," head coach Lester Butler, Jr. said. "The ladies knew we were playing for sole possession of second place and they played a good game against a very good CW Post team. Lauren [Brittingham] played another very good game, and Dohnay [Banice] continues to give us solid scoring and rebounding. I would like to have  handled their pressure a little better at the end , but we really missed not having Jasmine [Rich] at 100-percent today."

Senior guard Lauren Brittingham (Washington, DC – Potomac HS) led UDC with 23 points, seven assists and seven steals – all game-highs. Senior forward Dohnay Banice (Wilmington, DE – Williamson HS) notched her fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds, junior guard Janelle Junior (Riverside, CA – La Sierra HS) registered 16 points, and Denikka Brent pitched in with eight. Senior center Aida Gueye also pulled down eight rebounds for UDC, who held its own against the best rebounding team in the conference, only losing the battle by one, 42-41.

The Pioneers, who had won eight of their last nine games, were led by Ashley Caggiano, who shot 7-of-14 from the field (4-of-8 from long-range) to score a team-high 18 points. Felicia Joyner, the team's leading scorer, was two points under her average with 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting (1-of-8 from behind-the-arc).

CWP's Caggiano opened the scoring with a three-pointer nearly one minute into the game, and the Pioneers led 7-4 after a layup by Chelsea Williams at the 17:37 mark. A jumper by Brittingham then ignited a 13-2 Firebirds run which turned the 7-4 deficit into a 17-9 UDC advantage by the 13-minute mark. Brittingham had six of her 11 first half points during that stretch. UDC led 24-16 at the midway point of the first half when C.W. Post used a 5-0 run to pull within three, 24-21 on a Caggiano layup.

Still a three-point game with six minutes left before halftime, a jumper by Banice and an and-one layup by Aida Gueye (Alexandria, VA – T.C. Williams HS) in a matter of 40 seconds pushed the Firebirds' lead back to eight.  A three-pointer by Snezana Blagojevic at the 3:10 mark after the Pioneers had closed to five again, helped the host's maintain its eight-point advantage once more. UDC, which outscored CWP 22-14 in the paint, took a 38-30 lead into the intermission.

The Firebirds, who entered today's game 10-0 when leading at halftime, took it to CWP right away in the second half, going on an 11-2 charge over the first three-and-a-half minutes after the break and extending their lead to 49-32. UDC maintained a double-figure lead for the majority of the second half, and led 73-61 after a Banice layup at 2:02. At that point, C.W. Post employed a full-court press that forced five Firebird turnovers in the final two minutes of play and Post scored 11 of the game's next 13 points to pull within three (75-72) after a three-pointer by Kenyatta Sears with 23 seconds left.

A series of turnovers by both team resulted in a drama-filled conclusion but neither team was able to convert on the offensive end. Trailing by three, C.W. Post had the ball with nine seconds left to play, but elected to take a jumper from the foul line at the buzzer which, nonetheless, rimmed out, and UDC came away with the 75-72 victory in these two teams' first meeting as conference rivals.

The Firebirds visit ECC foe Molloy on Wednesday, January 25th at 6 p.m.