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Firebirds Fall in Close Battle at Queens

Deja Quick led the Firebirds with 17 points.
Deja Quick led the Firebirds with 17 points.

FLUSHING, NY – The University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team was defeated by host Queens College, 72-68 in East Coast Conference action Saturday afternoon at Fitzgerald Gymnasium.

 

The Firebirds and the reigning East Region champion Knights were never separated by more than eight points, though UDC never led by more than two. There were 10 ties and six lead changes in total.

 

UDC (2-10, 0-3 ECC) was led by freshman guard Daeja Quick, who registered 17 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sophomore guard Tyra Coombs was just two rebounds shy of a double-double as she pitched in 10 points and eight boards, and junior transfer guard Mia-Alexis Lloyd added 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.

 

Queens (6-4, 2-0 ECC), which won its 3rd straight game, featured four double-figure scorers. Senior guard Merrick Rowland – one of eight returning players from last year's Elite Eight squad – led all scorers with 19 points, reserve guard Taliyah Hopkins pitched in 17 points, and guard Beth Bonin added 13 points. Also, Marina Ramon Lopez  registered a double-double of 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

 

First year head coach John Nakpodia's squad posted a season-high 45 rebounds and a season-low 11 turnovers to stay in contention throughout the entire game, but an unfavorable disparity in fouls came back to haunt the visitors. UDC was whistled for 22 fouls compared to 14 by Queens, leading to 22-of-28 free-throw shooting by the Knights compared to 12-of-14 by the Firebirds.

 

UDC withstood a hot start by the hosts as Queens connected on six of its first nine shots in the first five minutes of play. Bonin buried her first two three-point shot attempts of the game to help the Knights claim a 10-7 lead early. Later, Queens would extend its lead to six on a three-pointer by Rowland just under the two-minute mark, but back-to-back layups by UDC's Mia Boyd and Natasha Roy brought the Firebirds within two with one minute left in the opening quarter. A one-of-two trip at the line for Queens' Hopkins would make it 23-20 to end the period.

 

The Firebirds came out strong to start the 2nd quarter as they opened on an 8-3 surge and took their first lead of the day, 28-26 on a Desiree Gaeckler jump shot at the 4:09 mark. Later, a jump shot by Roy at the 1:47 mark gave UDC back the lead, 33-32 after a pair of Bonin free-throws had given Queens a 32-31 edge, but the Knights scored five of the final seven points to end the quarter, and they took a 37-35 advantage into halftime.

 

District of Columbia continued to fight a the 3rd quarter began, and the Firebirds scored six of the first 10 points in the period to force a 41-all tie on a layup by Gaeckler around the 6:30 mark. At that point, however, Queens went on a 10-2 surge, beginning with five straight points and capped by a Bonin three-pointer to give the Knights the largest lead of the day by either team, 51-43. Still, the Firebirds did not lay down though, as Coombs scored six straight points for UDC, and the visitors out-scored their hosts 10-5 over the final three-and-a-half minutes to pull within three, 56-53 at the end of the quarter.

 

In the 4th quarter, Hopkins scored the first bucket to put Queens ahead by five, but five straight points by the Firebirds, including a three-pointer by Quick, forced a 58-all tie at the 7:47 mark. Later, another jumper by Hopkins made it a three-point game once more, but UDC answered with two layups over a two minute span to claim its first lead since the 2nd quarter, 62-61. 

 

Once again, however, Hopkins responded for the Knights, converting a layup at the 3:50 mark that put Queens in front to stay, 63-62.  She'd later extend the lead to four, 67-63, with a pair of free-throws at the 1:55 mark, and then also sink another pair at the line at the 1:29 mark right after Quick had made it a one-point game (67-66) on a three-pointer.

 

Quick once again made it a one-point game with two free-throws at the one-minute mark, and following a Queens turnover, UDC had an opportunity to take the lead with 27 seconds remaining. One of UDC's season-low 11 turnovers on the day cost the Firebirds that chance though, and the Firebirds were forced to foul to stop the clock. Queens went on to ice it with 3-of-4 shooting at the line, as the Knights held on for the narrow, four-point win.

 

Next up, UDC will host ECC foe University of Bridgeport on Wednesday,  January 3rd.