Late Push Sends Firebirds to 71-64 Victory vs. Virginia State

Natasha Roy led the Firebirds with 19 points.
Natasha Roy led the Firebirds with 19 points.

WASHINGTON, DC – The University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team earned a 71-64 victory vs. Virginia State University in non-regional action Sunday afternoon at UDC Gym.

The Firebirds (4-7) outscored their guests in all four quarters, but it was a pivotal, 12-2 run late in the 4th quarter that allowed UDC to come away victorious.

The Trojans (7-4), ranked No. 8 in the latest D2SIDA Atlantic Region poll, used a 7-0 run to start the 4th quarter and took their first lead (57-56) since the final seconds of the 1st quarter. Ultimately, they were outscored by UDC, 15-7, over the final five minutes of regulation.

Head Coach John Nakpodia received valuable contributions from all nine Firebird players who saw action today, as all nine grabbed at least one rebound and seven entered the scoring column.

Senior guard Natasha Roy led UDC in scoring with 19 points, nine of which came on 9-of-11 shooting at the foul line. Her fellow starting backcourt mate, Mia-Alexis Lloyd, packed the stat sheet with 10 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.

Junior guard Tyra Coombs was just shy of a double-double, as she led the team in rebounding with 10 boards and scored nine points, and senior center, Patricia Albert, collected eight rebounds, including a game-high seven boards on the offensive glass.

Two UDC reserves – sophomore guard Maya Thomas and sophomore forward Mia Boyd – together out-scored all six Trojan bench players, as Thomas registered 16 points and Boyd added 11. Thomas, who has now scored in double-figures in three straight games, shot 5-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. These two also combined for 10 rebounds and three steals.

UDC overcame 32-percent field goal shooting with a 53-31 rebounding advantage, nearly double as many free-throws (21-11), and a 16-6 edge in 2nd chance points.

VSU shot 41-percent from the field but made only 65-percent (11-of-17) of its free throws. The Trojans were led by forward Chrisanna Green with game-highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds to go with three assists and three steals. Yazmen Hannah also added 11 points.

A Thomas three-pointer at the 6:45 mark broke an early 2-2 tie, but the Trojans marched to a 9-2 run over the next three minutes. Hannah capped the run with a layup at the 3:21 mark to put the visitors up, 11-7 – what would be their largest lead of the game.

UDC still trailed 13-9 as the clock ticked under one minute remaining in the 1st quarter when Thomas buried another three-pointer, then picked VSU's Shalyn Washington's pocket for a steal on the other end and dished to Mia Boyd for an easy layup to put the Firebirds back up, 14-13.

Virginia St. answered on the ensuing possession with a layup to go back up, 15-14, but then a shooting foul was called on VSU's Autumn Hopson as she defended Roy's half-court heave just before the buzzer. Roy was awarded three foul shots, and she cashed in on all three to put UDC on top, 17-15 to end the opening period.

In the 2nd quarter, UDC still controlled a one-possession lead, 23-20, with under seven minutes left when Coombs knocked down her 2nd three-pointer of the quarter and Boyd added a layup to give the Firebirds their largest lead of the day, 28-20. VSU answered right back though with eight straight points, culminating in an Asia Timmons three-pointer to force a 28-all tie with 3:24 left before halftime. After a UDC timeout though, the Firebirds went on to out-score the Trojans 6-2 for the remainder of the quarter, and took a 34-30 lead into the break.

Sophomore guard Danielle Harrington scored the first points of the 3rd quarter on a layup off of a feed by Lloyd, and UDC opened up a six-point advantage, 36-30. Minutes later, the Firebirds still led 40-34, but later Hannah would twice cut the deficit to two with consecutive layups. At the four-minute mark, a pair of Timmons free throws brought VSU within one, 43-42, but Roy responded with four straight points, followed by a Thomas three-pointer to cap a 7-0 Firebirds surge that padded the lead back up to eight, 50-42. UDC would control a six-point lead, 56-50 heading into the final period.

Beginning with an Aja Robertson jumper 10 seconds into the period, Virginia State embarked on a 7-0 burst to claim its first lead since the seven-second mark in the first quarter. Taja Clark's three-pointer at the 6:18 mark put VSU in front, 57-56, and the visitors seemed to have momentum on their side.

UDC still trailed, 59-57 as the clock ticked under four minutes to play, but at the 3:50 mark, Natasha Roy knocked down an elbow jumper to force the 6th and final tie of the game. Then, following a Thomas steal, Boyd made a tremendous cut to the basket and received a beautiful feed from Lloyd for another easy layup to put UDC ahead for good, 61-59. Those two buckets were the beginning of a 12-2 run by the Firebirds that catapulted them from down two points, to up eight, 69-61. UDC would then coast to a seven-point victory, 71-64.

Next up, the Firebirds enter back into East Coast Conference play with a road contest at St. Thomas Aquinas College on Wednesday, January 2nd at 5:30 p.m.