UPPER MARLBORO, MD. – For nearly 39 minutes, the College of Charleston women’s basketball team was poised for an astounding upset over the No. 1 seeded James Madison Dukes. Yet James Madison took their very first lead with barely over a minute remaining and escaped the clutches of a gutsy CofC effort by a final score of 53-50.
“I want to express how thankful I am to the seniors and the effort that they put forth,” head coach Candice M. Jackson said. “Coming away with a loss is hurtful and it stings, but I appreciate everything our ladies did today.”
The College took the floor with a purpose, and absolutely blitzkrieged a shell-shocked James Madison team. Senior forwards Jackie Luna-Castro and Kelsey Booth played inspired basketball, combining to score 18 of the first 20 points for the Cougars. At the end of one, CofC led 20-6 over a rattled JMU team.
The Dukes struck back in the second, where they outscore the College 17-7, but their first quarter deficit was so great that they still trailed at half 27-23. After half, both teams traded baskets, with the Cougars maintaining the lead for the next 12 minutes.
After gradually fighting their way back, James Madison tied the game on an Ashley Perez three-pointer with under eight minutes to go in the fourth. The Cougars however would not roll over, scoring three straight baskets to push the lead back to 46-39 and force the Dukes into a timeout with 5:36 remaining.
The Cougars valiantly held on, but with CofC up one (50-49) with 1:07 to play, Perez struck once again with yet-another three to give JMU a 52-50 lead. After a foul put Perez on the line, who split her attempts to make the game 53-50, the Cougars would get the ball back with six seconds to play.
The Cougars sprinted down the court, and fed an open Kelsey Booth a quality look. Alas, the three-point attempt had just a bit too much on it, as it clanged off the far iron as time expired.
“We had a couple key turnovers down the stretch,” Jackson said. “We missed a few shots and didn’t take the ball back. James Madison did a very good job coming right down and capitalizing.”
Booth ended her collegiate career with 22 points on the afternoon, her single-game season-high in a Cougar uniform. She added four rebounds and a block as well. Luna-Castro finished with 14 points and seven boards.
Early foul trouble limited Breanna Bolden’s availability, and though she had a difficult night offensively (seven points on 2-of-11 shooting), she played outstanding defense, pulling down a team-high eight boards and three steals. Bolden’s single-season steal record is now set at 91, while she stands at 235 career steals, just one shy of former teammate Jill Brown’s record. She’ll have her entire senior year to find a way to accumulate the two steals needed to pass it.
The Cougars (32.1% FG) outshot the Dukes (27.9% FG), and won the turnover battle 13-16. However, James Madison was dominant on the boards as they have been all season, pulling down 52 to the Cougars’ 32. On an individual level, Ashley Perez (21-11) and Jazmon Gwathmey (13-10) both had double-doubles, while Kayla Cooper-Williams pulled down a whopping 18 boards.
“James Madison had a lot of All-Conference players, and it really showed in the way that they played the game why they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Jackson said. “I thought we matched up well with them, and I look forward to seeing how we stack up with them next year.”
The Cougars wrap up their season with a 11-20 overall record, more than doubling their win total from last season. They’ll look to grow from Thursday’s experience as they move on to the off-season.