Not all consolation games serve their purpose. It may be nice to have the chance to end a tournament appearance with a win, but those wins do not typically provide much comfort.
But when the Warren Wilson College women’s basketball team walked off the court for the final time in the 2017-18 season on March 2 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania after a 103-61 throttling of Penn State Fayette, players did so with their heads held high.
The goal for the Owls this season was always to win the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Division II National Championship. That goal was well within reach even back on Feb. 14 when the team won its 18th game of the season, the most in the history of the program.
Head coach Robin Davis and her Owls finished the regular season with victory number 19 and advanced to the USCAA national championship tournament for the first time. Warren Wilson entered the tournament as a number 4 seed and was matched up against number 5 Penn State Brandywine in the opening round.
It was then that the Owls’ journey to the national championship was derailed, Davis said.
“There was a scoring discrepancy and we actually would have won by one point in regulation if they had gotten it right,” she said. “Unfortunately, the league doesn’t have a policy in place to go back and review it through video and make a change.”
The official score had the game tied at 68 as regulation ended, and Warren Wilson and Penn State Brandywine went into overtime. The Nittany Lions outscored the Owls 5-2 in the extra frame.
“We should’ve never been at that point,” Davis said of overtime. “We started out slow, we were down by 17 at the end of the first half and we took the lead in the second half. But we didn’t shoot foul shots the way we should have in the fourth quarter.”
Davis contested the outcome of the game into the following day, March 2, when the Owls were scheduled to play a consolation game against number 8 seed Penn State Fayette, the college hosting the tournament.
“I was worried whether or not we would be able to bounce back for that game because up until that morning we were still waiting to see if anything would be done about the Brandywine game,” she said. “But we definitely saw (the consolation game) as a chance to make a statement.
Perhaps no player was more suited to make that statement for Owls than junior Danasia Dumas, who was named a first team All-American for the third straight season before the tournament began. Dumas posted a career high 43 points and pulled down 14 rebounds against the Roaring Lions. She also added 5 steals, 4 assists and 3 blocked shots to her statistical line.
“We wanted to use that game to show everyone why we were there in the tournament,” Dumas said. “We wanted to make it known that the (Penn State Brandywine) game didn’t affect us. We everyone know we’d be back next year, and way better than we were this year.”
Warren Wilson junior guard Amber Godfrey earned her second straight All-American honorable mention this season. She scored 15 points for the Owls in the consolation game and added 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals.
The victory over Penn State Fayette was the 20th of the season for the Owls, a milestone that Davis, who has now guided program to its three best seasons, is proud of.
“To me any time as a program you get 20 wins as a program people look at that as being a pretty dominant season,” she said. “Considering our strength of schedule that’s a huge accomplishment.”
The recent surge by the Owls has been buoyed, in large part, by Dumas, who Davis calls a “once-in-a-lifetime talent.” The guard will likely score her 2,000th career point early next season.
“She’s going to break records that will stand here forever,” Davis said of Dumas.
Godfrey, a steady leader on the court for Warren Wilson, is just a few points away from her 1,000th career point.
With only one senior, Allison Church, set to graduate this year, the vast majority of the roster will be returning for 2018-19.
“Next year we should be even better,” Davis said. “I think we will come in as one of the top teams in our league.”