Elan captures first CAA Championship - Mar 12, 2017
Top-seeded Elon dominated host James Madison, 78-60, to win its first CAA Women's Basketball Championship in history at the JMU Convocation Center on Saturday night. The Phoenix (27-6) earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. 'You know I'm hardly ever at a loss for words but I'm still pinching myself because it still hasn't sunk in yet,' said Elon Coach Charlotte Smith-Taylor . 'I'm so proud of this team and the effort we put forth in all three games of this tournament. Four Phoenix starters scored in double figures led by the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Lauren Brown (5'9''-G-95) with 17. Essence Baucom (5'5''-G-94) scored 16 and Malaya Johnson (6'3''-C) and Shay Burnett (5'9''-G) had 14 each. Elon's fifth starter, Jenifer Rhodes (6'0''-F-94), scored nine with eight boards. Burnett also nabbed 10 boards for a double-double. 'Being part of this team has been a phenomenal experience,' Brown said. 'I feel like we've really been working for this moment for four years.' 'It still hasn't hit me,' Rhodes said. It was only Elon's second win over JMU in the nine games the teams have played. JMU swept Elon this season. The Dukes, who had won the last three CAA Championships, were seeking their ninth title overall. Balance and poise have been the trademarks of Elon for the entire CAA Championship and despite playing in front of a frenzied crowd, Smith's veteran-laded team that starts three seniors and two juniors, didn't waver. Elon was marvelous from the field, shooting 50 percent for the game and 66.7 percent in the fourth quarter. The Phoenix were 5-of-10 from beyond the arc with Burnett draining both of hers, Brown nailing two and Baucom, one. Elon led for nearly 36 minutes of the game, never trailing after the go-ahead bucket for 7-6. The Dukes (24-8) couldn't find their offense, shooting the ball 30 more times than Elon but the lid stayed on the basket. JMU never shot better than 24 percent in a period. One bizarre stretch late saw JMU put up seven shots underneath, none of them falling, no fouls, an empty possession. 'Epitomized the day,' JMU Head Coach Sean O'Regan 'Regan said. CAA Player of the Year Precious Hall scored a game-high 32 but struggled to find consistency, misfiring on 23 of her 33 shots. She left the game to a standing ovation with 1:34 remaining, embracing the arms of O'Regan. 'It seemed like every move we made, they capitalized on,' O'Regan said. 'It seemed like every shot they threw up was a splash.' Elon led by double digits most of the second half, but weathered a last gasp by JMU when a pair of free throws by Hall trimmed it to 10 at 65-55 with 2:21 left. But Elon finished on a 13-5 run. 'It's a tough one to swallow,' O'Regan said. 'It wasn't our day. I thought we showed some fight at the end, but for whatever reason we couldn't put the ball in the basket.' Elon led 36-25 at halftime, shooting 50 percent and outdoing JMU 20-10 in the paint. The Dukes struggled to find any consistency on offense, converting just 7 of their 33 field-goal attempts for 21.2 percent. 'The one proud moment for me is we fight till the end and that's what we do,' O'Regan said. 'But I'm crushed. I'm crushed with the result.' For the four days, 9,207 attended the conference tournament, which returns to campus sites after five years on a neutral court. Drexel will host the CAA Tournament in 2018 and Delaware is the 2019 host. Burnett, Baucom, Hall, Drexel's Sarah Curran (5'11''-F) and William and Mary's Marlena Tremba (5'9''-G) received all-tournament team honors. Brown scored 53 in the three games to earn Most Outstanding Player honors. 'JMU is a phenomenal team,' Brown said. 'They have a history of winning and Precious Hall focuses in. We knew it would be a very big game for us. To be able to show up and show out at their home is great. It really is.' Even Smith, who admitted never being satisfied after a dominating quarterfinal win over Hofstra, couldn't complain. 'Of course, we're champions now,' she said.
CAA Tournament Final: Elon - James Madison 78-60 CAA Tournament Semifinals: Elon - William & Mary 88-60 James Madison - Drexel 76-68
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