- - Sunday, March 4, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. | Forward Kelli Prange thought about transfering from George Washington after coach and mentor Jonathan Tsipis left the program in 2016 and headed to Wisconsin.

Then, this year, she missed seven games with concussion-like symptoms.

But the senior reserve’s perseverance is paying off as her college basketball career comes to a close: On Thursday she was named 6th Woman of the Year in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and, three days later, she and her teammates dominated No. 6 seed Saint Joseph’s, 65-49 in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament women’s championship game.

Prange scored eight points in the second quarter and 14 overall with five rebounds Sunday afternoon as the No. 5 seed Colonials (19-13), became the first team from the D.C. area to punch a ticket to March Madness. The Maryland women lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten Conference tourney title game Sunday night in Indianapolis, but were already assured of at least an at-large berth.

“It is just amazing, with all of the ups and downs we had,” said Prange, standing underneath the red and black confetti that flooded the court at the Richmond Coliseum. “All of the hard work has paid off.”

Prange, who played 23 minutes, and other key players were taken out of the game with 1:24 left and she hugged her teammates as GW fans back of the team bench clapped with glee.

Her teammates were key to her not transferring after Tsipis left the program and coach Jennifer Rizzotti took over.

“I was back and forth,” Prange said of her decision to stay. “I wanted to stick with the girls that were here.”

Prange scored 55 points in the four games of the tourney. Her mother, Cindy Baruch, played basketball for one season at George Washington before transferring to George Mason. Prange helped GW upset George Mason on Friday in the quarterfinals.

Tournament MVP Brianna Cummings had 17 points and five assists for GW, Neila Luma had 10 and six rebounds and Kelsi Mahoney chipped in with 12 points. GW all-tourney point guard Mei-Lyn Bautista had an amazing 26 assists and no turnovers in the tourney, with seven assists Sunday.

“She came off the bench and brought us a lot of energy,” Bautista said of Prange. “We had her back. We told her she is not going home without a (title) ring.”

Prange said it was not a surprise to win the 6th Woman of the Year award.

“I fought so hard. I put in extra work with the training staff,” she said.

The Damascus High grad realized she could be a difference maker off the bench. She has played in 25 of 32 games this season, with just eight starts.

“She was trying to drill that (message) into me,” Prange said of her new coach.

Rizzotti, a Hall of Fame guard at UConn, went to the Big Dance six times in 17 seasons with Division I Hartford before heading to GW. GW is going to its 18th showing in the NCAA field and first under Rizzotti.


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