By Nick Nelson
On a night honoring the courage of Virginia Tech’s students and faculty in the wake of the April 2006 events, as well as the memory of Erin Peterson, the No. 19 University of Mary Washington Eagles pulled out a thrilling 83-76 overtime victory Monday night over their conference rival, No. 18 Marymount University Saints.
The Eagles played an intense game throughout, determined to find ways to bring it to the next level when weaker teams may have folded under the pressure. Despite being outscored 38-33 in the first half, the Eagles came back in the second half with fury and drive, determined to get the win for Peterson.
Peterson had strong ties to the Mary Washington men’s and women’s basketball teams before her tragic death in the Virginia Tech shootings, despite attending college roughly 220 miles and four hours away.
Peterson graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Virginia in 2006, after playing basketball with UMW senior Kaitie Clarkin and supporting the men’s team anchored by UMW senior Matt Hale. She also played Amateur Athletic Union basketball with junior Ashley Reed.
Majoring in international studies, Peterson hoped to use her degree and her education in order to help those less fortunate abroad.
Senior guard Katy Larson explained the importance of the game. “It was so great to get the win tonight. Erin’s parents are such amazing, amazing people, and it was awesome to win for them.”
The win, however, did not come without a heavy amount of drama and struggle. As if the tribute for Peterson was not enough of a storyline, Monday’s game was a rematch of the Capital Athletic Conference championship game, which the Eagles won by a resounding 90-59 margin.
Looking for revenge, Marymount came out shooting, leading by five going into halftime, despite Mary Washington shooting 42 percent in the first half and holding Marymount to just a 38 percent shooting percentage. Mary Washington held the shooting lead, finishing with 44 percent shooting to Marymount’s 41 percent.
“We lost our intensity in that first half,” Larson said. “We did a great job picking ourselves up and getting back into the game the rest of the way.”
The fans also stepped up the intensity in the second half. Audibly displeased with the way the referees had been calling the game, the booing came quickly and loudly, with the spectators in the bleachers showing no restraint in their disdain for the officiating.
Despite the controversy, the Eagles shook off the early-game rust and turned on their play, outscoring Marymount by a margin of 34-26, before Marymount hit a buzzer-beating three pointer to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, staunch defense and clutch free throws allowed Mary Washington to pull away and outscore Marymount 16-9 in the period.
Senior forward Ashton Mitchell led the Eagles with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Larson added 19 points. Freshman guard Jenna McRae also added 15 points and six rebounds of her own.
Marymount’s scoring was led by Terrell White with 25 points, three of which came on the buzzer beating shot that forced the game into overtime. White was one of four Marymount players to score in double digits.
“We just need to maintain our intensity from here on out,” Larson said. “We have to keep our heads. We’re a talented team, but if we’re flat out there, we’re not going to play well. We just have to hustle out there.”
The win put Mary Washington at 13-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play with the upset victory; with Marymount falling to 12-3 overall and an identical 5-1 record in conference play. York College is the only remaining team with an undefeated record in conference play, at 7-0 on the season.
The Eagles play again in back to back road games against Wesley College and Stevenson University, then return home against rival Salisbury University on Jan. 28.