Firebirds Fall 55-54 in Heartbreaking Loss to Mercy

Kaiya Coleman tied for the game-high with 17 points.
Kaiya Coleman tied for the game-high with 17 points.

WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team suffered the most narrow of losses on Sunday afternoon as Shantrel Oliver's game-winning shot attempt with five seconds remaining did not get the roll, and the host Firebirds fell to East Coast Conference foe Mercy College, 55-54.

Oliver, UDC's senior captain guard, was one of three Firebirds to score in double-figures, including a game-high-tying 17 points by junior transfer guard Kaiya Coleman. Freshman guard Tyra Coombs was the 3rd UDC student-athlete in double-figures with 12 points, a game-high eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Mercy, which completed a season sweep of the Firebirds and improved to 4-20 overall (2-14 ECC), had just two scorers in double-figures: forward Latisha Clark with 17 points and six rebounds, and forward Cynthia Perez with 12 points. Guards Chi-La Bady and Monet Keane-Dawes combined for 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, and Bady also had a game-high four steals.

The Mavericks as a team out-shot UDC 48-percent (20-of-42) to 35-percent (18-of-51) from the field and 39-percent (7-of-18) to 25-percent (5-of-20) from three-point range, and they out-scored their hosts 22-16 in the paint. UDC, however, shot four more free-throw attempts (16-12) and a higher percentage (81-percent to 67-percent) at the stripe, the Firebirds had six fewer turnovers (20-14), and they doubled-up Mercy in 2nd chance points, 10-5.

In the first quarter, Mercy raced out to a 9-4 run halfway through the period, but Coleman capped a 5-0 UDC burst with a three-pointer at the 3:21 mark to force a 9-all tie. The Mavericks ended the quarter on their own 5-0 run and took a 14-9 lead at the first horn.

Coombs kicked off the 2nd quarter scoring with her only three-point field goal of the day 30 seconds in, and the Firebirds would storm out to a 13-3 run over the first 6:21 of action. Oliver added six points during this spurt, and UDC led 22-17 around the 3:30 mark. The Firebirds settled for a 24-20 lead at halftime.

UDC's momentum from the end of the 2nd quarter seemed to carry over early in the 3rd quarter when play resumed, as the Firebirds opened on a 6-2 surge and took their largest lead of the day, 29-22 on a jumper by Oliver just past the seven-minute mark.

After Oliver's jumper, however, it quickly became the Latisha Clark show as the 5'10 junior forward muscled her way to four layups, including an and-one layup to cap a 14-3 blitz by the Mavericks which put them in front, 36-32. Mercy would out-score UDC 20-6 over the final six-and-a-half minutes of the 3rd quarter and take a 42-35 lead heading into the final period.

The 4th quarter saw a few twists and turns, beginning with a 7-0 run to start the period by the Firebirds and force a 42-all tie at the eight minute mark. Mercy then answered with a 5-0 run only to have UDC counter with an 8-0 march to take a 50-47 lead with 4:25 remaining. The Mavericks then forced two consecutive ties at 50 and 52 before Keane-Dawes gave Mercy back the lead, 54-52 on a pair of free-throws with 50 seconds left. A drive to the basket by Coombs forced a Casey Sullivan foul, and Coombs calmly sank both at the line to force the game's 7th and final tie, 54-al with 38 seconds on the clock.

Over-aggressive defense by the Firebirds just past midcourt led to a foul call, sending Bady to the line to shoot two free-throws with only 18 seconds remaining. Bady made the first, but missed the second, giving UDC a chance to win with any field goal.

Oliver corralled the defensive rebound after the missed Bady free-throw and dribbled the length of the court. She then dribbled around looking for an opening, spun around a defender and ultimately got herself an open look at a running jump shot from the elbow, but her shot rimmed out, and time expired.

UDC (2-24, 1-15 ECC) has two games remaining on its schedule, and the first of those two is a road game at ECC foe Molloy on Wednesday, February 22nd at 5 p.m.