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Bona women rally from 17 down to top GW

ALLEGANY – St. Bonaventure rallied from a 17-point deficit to score a 69-67 overtime upset of George Washington on Wednesday night.

Senior forward Katie Healy scored 24 points to lead the Bonnies to a critical victory over the defending Atlantic 10 Conference women’s basketball champions.

Bona stands third in the 14-team A-10 at 10-3 and improved to 21-5 overall. The Bonnies are close to clinching a top-four finish in the A-10, which would give them a bye into the conference tournament quarterfinals. Bona is a half-game ahead of fourth-place Saint Louis (9-3) and three games clear of fifth place with only three regular-season games to go.

“What a basketball game,” said Bona coach Jim Crowley. “I thought our kids came together and kind of wouldn’t be denied. They just kept fighting.”

Bona also kept alive its hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, if it doesn’t earn an automatic bid by winning the A-10 title. Bona stands 40th in the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index and will move up. George Washington (21-5, 11-2) is 27th in the RPI, a key factor in the NCAA Tournament selection process.

“It was a great game,” said GW coach Jonathan Tsipis. “You hope the NCAA committee sees something like this and says these are two of the best 64 teams in the country battling it out.”

George Washington dominated the first half, making 50 percent of its shots and using its size advantage to hold a 25-11 advantage in rebounds. The Colonials took a 37-22 lead into intermission.

But Bona turned up the defensive intensity and showed why it ranks first in the A-10 and eighth in the nation in shooting percentage allowed, at 35.1 percent.

Bona stopped GW on five of its first six possessions of the third quarter and 11 of its first 13 possessions of the fourth quarter. By the end of the latter stretch, the Bonnies had taken a 57-55 lead.

“We got a little bit better at not giving away offensive rebounds for scores,” Crowley said. “We got a little better at not giving them rhythm threes. We got a little better at not giving them quick layups. Early in the third quarter we struggled with ball-screen coverage, and we got that tighter.”

Healy did a good job in the second half defending inside against GW’s best player, 6-foot-2 Caira Washington.

“Something that we talked about prior to the game was getting position on her,” Healy said. “Letting her get too low, that’s an automatic shot for her. That’s a turn-and-score every time. So we want to be able to push her out.”

Healy, the Lancaster product who is Bona’s No. 4 all-time leading scorer, had 16 points in the second half. She used pivot moves, reverse layups and quick drives to give GW’s defense fits.

“Once Katie Healy got going a little bit, we had to switch defenders because of some foul trouble, and I think that kind of fueled them,” Tsipis said.

Bona hit only 3 of 14 three-pointers, but two of them came in the final 2:49 of overtime. Mariah Ruff, Bona’s sophomore guard, hit a clutch three-pointer to tie it, 64-64. A minute later Bona swung the ball around to senior guard Nyla Rueter for an open three in the corner, which she made to give Bona the lead for good, 67-64.

“It was a set play,” Crowley said. “We haven’t run it in weeks. They hadn’t seen it, I don’t think.”

Bona got 18 points from Ruff. Rueter had nine points and four blocks. GW got 16 from Hannah Schaible.

Bona visits La Salle (2-11) Saturday.