NEWARK, Del. — The second time around wasn’t any easier to handle for Drexel, as the No. 2-seeded Dragons fell Saturday in the Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball final once again, as fourth-seeded Towson won the title with a 53-49 victory.
The Tigers made key plays to erase a three-point Drexel lead with less than two minutes remaining and grabbed the NCAA Tournament berth from the Dragons, who were upset in the title game for the second consecutive season and will likely earn a trip to the Women’s NIT as a consolation prize.
“We just couldn’t score at the end, which was really rough,” said Drexel forward Bailey Greenberg, the CAA player of the year, who scored a team-high 15 points. “We tried to control what we could control. We tried to keep it together. We can’t control the refs or what anybody else is doing.”
Earlier it seemed as if fate was on the side of the Dragons (24-8), who had taken control of the game in the fourth quarter. But a pair of late turnovers by Bailey, an Archbishop Wood product, helped Towson grab the lead after it looked as if Drexel might be able to salt the game away.
The Tigers took full advantage. Nukiya Mayo, who scored a game-high 20 points, nailed a 16-footer with a minute left to put Towson ahead, and, 30 seconds later, Kionna Jeter hit a step-back jumper over Drexel center Niki Metzel to seal the victory and begin the Tigers’ celebration.
“We preach it, game of possessions,” Drexel coach Denise Dillon said. “That’s what it came down to. We had the ball, we had a little cushion and we couldn’t execute the play to get Bailey another look.”
Thursday afternoon, hours before the Dragons even stepped on the court at Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center, the door to the league championship opened wide for them. Top-seeded James Madison had dominated the conference in the regular season, winning by an average of 16 points, including a pair of double-digit victories against Drexel. But, ravaged by injuries to a pair of All-CAA guards, the Dukes were knocked off by Hofstra in the quarterfinals, suddenly making the Dragons the favorites.
After escaping Northeastern in overtime on Friday night, Drexel had the ball up three late against Towson, and fans began thinking of net-cutting celebrations and potential NCAA Tournament destinations.
Instead, the CAA trophy was traveling to suburban Baltimore, where Towson (20-12) will eagerly anticipate Selection Monday and the announcement of its place in the NCAA field.