WASHINGTON, DC – Trailing 71-68 with 5:25 left to play in regulation, the Firebirds closed out the game on a 16-2 run en-route to an 84-73 season-opening victory over Nyack on Saturday afternoon in the nation's capital.
Junior forward ShaKena Williams (Accounting – Washington, DC/Frederick CC) ignited the Firebirds' final push with two consecutive three-pointers – the first to tie the game, and the second to give UDC the lead for good at the 4:28 mark. She finished her Firebird debut with 16 points (14 in the second half), six rebounds and four assists.
The Firebirds (1-0) featured a very balanced offensive attack that included four other scorers in double-figures. Junior guard Telisha Turner (Criminal Justice – Wilmington, DE/Harcum) posted a team-high 24 points which included 11-of-13 shooting at the free-throw line in her UDC debut. Junior guard Denikka Brent (Electrical Engineering – Chesapeake, VA/Booker T. Washington HS) added 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Also, senior guard Julissa Anderson (Criminal Justice – Greensboro, NC/Southeast Guilford HS) provided a spark off the bench in the first half with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and sophomore forward Tatyana Calhoun (Environmental Science – Disputanta, VA/Sussex Central HS) registered 11 points and six rebounds.
Audrey Matteson put forth a tremendous effort for the Warriors (0-1), registering game-highs of 31 points (12-of-15 FG shooting) and 11 rebounds. Also, Meghan Richards came off the bench to shoot 4-of-6 from the field (3-of-4 from long-range) for 11 points and a game-high five assists.
Both teams struggled to find their offensive rhythm in the early-going as the score was deadlocked at 8-8 with six minutes gone by, but that changed as soon as Anderson first entered the game at the 13:55 mark. In less than a one minute span, she connected on two consecutive long-range bombs and a mid-range jump shot, and then came up with a steal and an assist on a fast-break layup by Calhoun, which, all totaled, amounted to a 10-0 run and gave the Firebirds an 18-10 lead.
The Warriors came charging right back on an 8-0 run, capped by a Matteson layup to tie the game, 18-all just past the 10-minute mark. Seven more ties would ensue before Turner would lead the Firebirds on an 11-3 run in the final four minutes of the first half. With the score tied at 36, Turner converted all six free-throws she took in that final four-minute span and also buried a three-pointer to help UDC claim a 47-39 lead at halftime.
In the second half, UDC started on a 9-2 run, highlighted by consecutive three-pointers by Williams and Turner, and was off to its largest lead of the afternoon, 56-41 with 17 minutes remaining. Nyack would chip away at that lead over the next nine minutes, scoring 27 of the game's next 35 points and eventually going in front by as many as four points, 68-64 with 8:12 left to play. The Warriors still led 71-68 at the 5:25 mark before Williams led the Firebirds on their game-winning 16-2 rally.
Nyack had the advantage in field goal shooting percentage (49-percent to 42-percent), but the Firebirds shot slightly better from long range (9-of-23 to 7-of-18) and much better at the foul line (25-of-34 to 10-of-18). UDC also forced 31 Nyack turnovers while committing 22.
The Firebirds have a week off before they play their first road game of the season at non-league opponent Virginia Union on November 16th at 3 p.m.