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James Madison forward Jamia Hazell (25) jumps for an open shot during the game against the George Washington Colonials in Harrisonburg, VA on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. James Madison won the game 79 to 69. 

Atlantic Union Bank Center centered its eyes on JMU women’s basketball and welcomed Delaware for the final home series of the regular season. In an aggressive and heart-racing match, the Dukes ultimately fell in overtime 94-88.

There was no hesitation as the game started, and both teams were filled with energy at tip off. Delaware started the scoring with an early three minute run to give themselves a 9-4 lead at the first timeout. JMU struggled to score in the field, going 0-8 in the same time frame. 

After that initial timeout, JMU bounced back and sophomore forward Rayne Tucker scored three in a row to cut the lead in half. The Dukes turned their offense around and closed in on the Blue Hens’ lead. At the end of the first quarter, JMU and Delaware were in a back-and-forth battle with Delaware having a small lead, 21-20.

“I think that I just need to bring the same confidence and stuff into tomorrow,” Tucker said. “Just to build off and not go down from today.”

The second quarter carried its intensity over and both teams kept their energy on high alert. Tucker continued as the offensive leader for JMU, scoring 14 points before the half ended. JMU forced its way through the defense and onto the scoreboard to keep the arena on its toes. The Dukes took the lead thanks to junior guard Brianna Tinsley, 40-37, and the arena bounced with excitement.

“The crowd and fans and everything that JMU nation has always pushes us to keep pushing,” sophomore guard Kiki Jefferson said. “When we can hear them screaming and it’s not just our bench it makes us want to go harder for them.”

Delaware took over at the start of the third quarter, taking an 8-0 scoring run to regain the lead. Needing to regroup, the Dukes took a brief timeout and although it helped bring the team together, Delaware expanded its lead 63-58.

“Our commitment to the defensive end has to get better,” head coach Sean O’Regan said. “I just give them [Delaware] credit because they played really hard.”

The Blue Hens’ defense pressed tight on JMU and vice versa as both teams played on in the fourth quarter. Aggression flared on both sides of the court causing fouls on each side and provided multiple opportunities to overtake the game. JMU took advantage and went on a 13-2 run to sway the game in its favor with less than two minutes remaining. 

The last two minutes of the game was a matter of possession. Every second counted as the clock winded down with JMU holding a 76-74 lead. With Atlantic Bank on its side, JMU needed its timing down on defense to secure the win. Despite last efforts, Delaware notched a 3-pointer late and the teams headed to overtime tied 79-79.

“For me, I told them this is fun,” O’Regan said. “You’re playing a high, fast paced game with a good team, you’re looking good and scoring too so just go and have five more minutes of fun.”

The arena held its breath as the five-minute overtime period began, and Delaware took a four-point lead halfway through. Tensions seemingly kept reaching higher as both teams poured everything they had into the extra time. Delaware slowly pulled away with the lead after back-to-back JMU fouls. Needing only that, the Blue Hens walked away with the late win 94-88.

“We play the same team tomorrow and we have to play JMU basketball,” Jefferson said. “We just have to be able to bounce back.”

JMU faces Delaware again Sunday night at home for the final home game of the regular season. The team will also take the time to recognize its graduating class prior to tip off. Tip off is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Contact Madison Hricik at hricikmn@dukes.jmu.edu. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.