George Mason's Copes takes center stage

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George Mason's Copes takes center stage

With frontcourt stalwarts Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison having graduated, George Mason men's basketball program has a sizable interior hole.

Wide-bodied rising sophomore Erik Copes is poised to fill it.

The highest rated college basketball prospect ever to suit up for the Fairfax program, the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Copes flashed his defensive presence credentials throughout his freshman season. Seven blocks in a single half against Drexel comes to mind.

On a team missing three starters from last season's 24-win team, on a team without a senior in the primary rotation, opportunity exists for new focal points to emerge. Outside of wing scorer Sherrod Wright, Copes tops that particular list.

"If he stays healthy, I think he has a chance to be that breakout guy," said George Mason coach Paul Hewitt, referring to both Copes' defensive-presence upside plus the concussion and hip injury that limited the Philadelphia native in stretches last season.

Copes averaged nearly two blocked shots a game despite playing only 15 minutes per contest, a number limited in part because of that upperclassman duo. Offensively, we can charitably deem Copes' skill set as raw; rarely did he score (3.3 points) on anything other than a dunk or putback, tallied only three assists and his free throw percentage was a paltry 41.9 percent.

Physically, Copes showed his conference foes he was ready to go.

"If they hadn't had the two seniors, he would have played even more minutes as a freshman," Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said of Copes. "He was very impressive physically. He's gifted, nice strength, movement ability. They probably have their eyeballs on him as a sophomore picking up minutes as the interior presence."

No doubt coach Taylor, no doubt - that is, if Copes can stay on the court. Last season he missed six games, five straight midseason, and Mason's CAA Tournament loss against VCU.

"Last year he got off to a really good start," Hewitt said. 'He started playing his best basketball in that game against Drexel when he had seven blocked shots in the first half only to suffer a concussion in the second half and missed five games. He was not quite himself coming back from that concussion and then he when he got it going again he hurt his hip in practice before the CAA Tournament was going to begin."

Copes underwent surgery in May and "so far he's made great recovery, he's back in practice going full tilt," Hewitt said.

Those also tasked with taking on a larger role up front include junior forward Jonathan Arledge, who started twice and played 31 games last season. Redshirt junior Johnny Williams, who played 62 games over his first two seasons, returns to action with a slimmed-down look after sitting out last season with a shoulder injury. Skilled 6-foot-8 Serbian freshman Marko Gujanicic rounds out the likely heart of Hewitt's rotation.

Wright and Vertrail Vaughns are the Patriots top two leading returning scorers while fellow guards Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards direct traffic from the point. Incoming freshman and All-Met Player of the Year Patrick Holloway brings additional scoring pop.

"Everybody has holes to fill; every kid on my team is going to be in a new role," Taylor said. "But, if you look at Mason, they pretty much got things situated. They just need to fill the interior situation."

"When you lose the Player of the Year, that's significant," Hewitt said. "You don't just overlook that. But, its part of what college basketball is all about. Every year there's going to be that exciting new freshman. Fans and people who support your program are looking for that kid who is going to make that jump from his sophomore to his junior year and become a program player.

"Losing Ryan and Mike in particular is going to hurt us. At the same time, I think we've got a core of big guys more than capable of replacing them."

Erik Copes, in particular.

Maryland women's lacrosse beats Boston College in championship

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Maryland women's lacrosse beats Boston College in championship

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After a sporadic first half, top-seeded Maryland did what it normally does.

A 5-5 halftime tie was a 10-5 Maryland lead just 4:26 into the second half, and the Terrapins held on to beat Boston College 16-13 on Sunday in the NCAA women's lacrosse championship game.

"We struggled shooting in the first half," coach Cathy Reese said. "We came out in the second half on fire. Give these guys all the credit. They played hard. They played their hearts out."

Caroline Steele had six goals and an assist, Taylor Hensh scored three times, and the Terps capped an unbeaten season with their 13th NCAA title. Jen Giles, Megan Whittle and Kali Hartshorn each had two goals and an assist for the Terrapins (23-0).

Maryland played in its fifth straight final and won its third title in four years. The only NCAA tournament loss during that span came in last year's championship game, when North Carolina knocked off the two-time defending champ Terrapins 13-7.

"Three for four isn't too shabby. Finishing up your senior season undefeated is pretty awesome," said Zoe Stukenberg, who had three assists in her final game with the Terps.

The heavily favored Terps scored 10 seconds into the game, They racked up those five quick goals in the second half, but Boston College kept it from becoming a runaway.

"We were a little shook up again in the first half," Boston College coach Acacia Walker said. "They're just so smart. They just tuned in and did what they needed to do. Every person did their job and we just sort of plugged away."

Kenzie Kent had five goals and five assists for Boston College, which reached the championship game for the first time. Sam Apuzzo scored four goals for the Eagles, giving her 80 for the season.

Although Maryland never trailed, the Terps were pushed by the Eagles, who battled back from an early 5-2 deficit.

After being shut out for the last 16:11 of the first half, the Terps stormed out of halftime to regain command. Whittle started it with a goal 19 seconds in, then Steele struck for two 1:18 apart to get the Terps comfortably on top again.

"Caroline played great. She was on fire," Stukenberg said. "We needed her. Nobody else was and she stepped up when we needed her. It was unbelievable."

Kent kept Boston College close with three straight goals to cut the margin to 11-9, then assisted on Dempsey Aresenault's goal with 14 minutes left to get the Eagles back within a goal.

"I think it gives negative mojo to your team if you think of how many goals you're down," Kent said. "Instead, we take it play by play and I think that's what got us out of that hole."

Caroline Wannen scored for Maryland with 12:04 left to start the Terps on another scoring surge. Hensh put Maryland up 13-10, then, after Kent's fifth goal of the game, the Terps picked up three more goals by Kali Hartshorn, Steele and Hensh with 4:07 left to all but seal another title for Maryland.

Apuzzo added a pair of late goals for the Eagles.

Hartshorn put Maryland up 1-0 10 seconds in. Hensh made it 2-0 1:42 later when she plucked her rebound out of the air and swept it in behind BC goalie Zoe Ochoa. Apuzzo answered with two goals for BC to set the back-and-forth tone that would last until the final few minutes.

Maryland holds on to beat Denver, advance to national title game

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Maryland holds on to beat Denver, advance to national title game

The Maryland men’s lacrosse team is returning to the national championship game for a third straight year.

The Terrapins held on to beat Denver, 9-8, in the national semifinals Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Maryland’s Connor Kelly scored the go-ahead goal with 8:41 to go and the Terps defense held tight to preserve the victory.

Kelly scored three goals to pace Maryland on offense. The Terps led 4-1 in the first half and 5-3 at halftime before Denver tied it up at 8-8 with 10 minutes remaining ahead of what proved to be the game winner.

In the final two minutes, both teams had goals waved off because of crease violations – one from Maryland's Colin Heacock with 1:28 remaining and a second from Denver's Connor Donahue with 9.2 seconds left.

Maryland will now play Ohio State in the national championship game at 1 p.m. ET Monday. The Buckeyes beat Towson, 11-10, in the earlier semifinal Saturday.

For the Terps, the game will mark their 14th national title game appearance, though they haven’t won it since 1975. Since then, Maryland has finished as runner-ups nine straight times (1976, 1979, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016), including four times in the past six years.

The Terps fell 10-5 to Denver (2015) and 14-13 in overtime to North Carolina (2016) in the last two national title games.

In addition to the 1975 title, Maryland also won it in 1973. They also finished as runner-ups in 1971 and 1974.

The Maryland women’s lacrosse team will be playing in their own national championship game Sunday, against Boston College. The Terps beat Penn State, 20-10, Friday night, and Boston College rallied to beat Navy, 16-15.

The Maryland women’s team has won 12 national championships, most recently in both 2014 and 2015.