EASTON, Pa. - Audrey Bauer (So., Lake Zurich, Ill.) and Kara Pollinger (So., Fort Gay, W.Va.) combined for 28 second-half points to help the Navy women's basketball team rally from a 16-point, first-half deficit to defeat Lafayette, 60-55, Saturday afternoon at the Kirby Sports Center, in Easton, Pa.
"Determination," said Pollinger when asked to describe the rally. "We were down at the half, but we knew coming out that we were going to play our game. Our shots weren't falling, but we were going to crash the boards hard and make sure Lafayette didn't get the same looks they had in the first half."
The score was tied at 10-10 when the Navy (8-7, 1-0 Patriot League) offense went into a shooting slump. The Mids missed their ensuing 16 shots from the field as Lafayette (6-10, 0-1) built a lead as large as 30-14. Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.) scored on an inside move just prior to the horn sounding to end the first half and tally Navy's first made field goal in over 14 minutes. Her bucket pulled the Mids to within 30-18 at the break.
"Jade's basket at the end of the first half was huge," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper, "as much for giving her confidence at being able to finish."
The last time Navy faced a Patriot League team was March 7, 2011, when the Mids played host to American in the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament. American held a 30-18 advantage at halftime that day before the Mids dominated the second half to post a 47-40 victory over the Eagles.
Navy made only five field goals in the entire first half Saturday, but made five field goals at the start of the second half before Lafayette made one.
Geif notched her second consecutive bucket at the start of the second half, then Bauer hit a jumper for the Mids. Geif would soon grab an offensive rebound and then feed Pollinger for a layup to pull Navy to within 30-24 a little more than three minutes into the second half. Navy continued its strong play coming out of the first media timeout when Bauer drilled a three-pointer to make it a three-point game. Lafayette tallied two points on a pair of free throws, but that was followed by another triple from Bauer.
After a Lafayette field goal, Alix Membreno (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.) snared an offensive board and found Erin Edwards (Sr., Hockessin, Del.) open for a three-pointer that closed the margin down to one point at 34-33. Lafayette's Emily Homan scored on one end of the floor, with Bauer immediately answering with her third three-pointer of the half to knot the score at 36-36 with 13:36 left to play.
Lafayette slowly crept out to a 44-37 lead with 10:20 left to play, but Navy scored the next 16 points to take a 53-44 lead with 4:20 showing on the clock. Pollinger started the Navy run with a three-pointer and a layup. Membreno next converted a pair of free throw attempts before Pollinger and Geif tallied back-to-back layups to give the Mids a 48-44 lead. Navy's ensuing possession saw Bauer fouled while attempting a three-point shot. She would make her first attempt before missing her next two shots. However, Membreno snuck in between a pair of Lafayette post players and controlled the loose ball. The ball went back to Bauer who was fouled while trying a 15-foot jumper. Back at the charity stripe for the second time in a span of four seconds, Bauer this time made both attempts. Membreno then ended Lafayette's next possession after one shot with another rebound, and that led to Geif finding Pollinger for a layup to give the Mids a 53-44 lead.
The Navy lead would reach nine points -- 57-48 with 1:27 left to play -- when Lafayette made one last run at the Mids. A jumper by Danielle Fiacco closed the margin to seven points, then Membreno was fouled after grabbing an offensive rebound. She went to the foul line with 43 seconds left, but missed the attempt. Samantha Jordan was fouled on the ensuing Lafayette possession, and she sank both shots from the line to make the score 57-52 with 36 seconds left. Lafayette quickly fouled Membreno to send her back to the line. She again missed the front end of the bonus, with the Leopards grabbing the carom and rushing the ball down the court. Madeline Fahan then drilled a three-point field goal to make it a two-point game -- 57-55 -- with just under 25 seconds showing on the clock.
After a Lafayette timeout, the Mids inbounded the ball to Geif, who was immediately fouled. Geif walked to the other end of the court and calmly made both attempts to boost the Navy lead to 59-55. Lafayette missed a three-point attempt on its next possession, with Pollinger grabbing the board before being fouled. She too walked to the Navy end of the floor and made both of her attempts from the charity stripe to close out the scoring.
"It wasn't anything I said at halftime," said Pemper. "I think the players just came out determined.
"We executed some things nicely in the second half. With Audrey hitting those outside shots it opened things up inside, then Jade went to work with a couple of baskets. No one doubled her and she was able to finish. Chloe Stapleton (Fr., Cary, N.C.) was really helpful with her defensive minutes. We also hit some free throws. This was a huge win."
Navy shot just 17.9 percent from the floor in the first half, but converted 52.8 percent of its second-half attempts. This included a 5-of-12 (41.7%) effort from outside of the three-point line over the final 20 minutes of play. Navy's defense also improved after halftime. Lafayette shot 30 percent from the field in the second half, down from its 40-percent mark in the first half. The Leopards were just 2-of-8 from three-point range in the second half.
Lafayette held a 22-20 advantage on the glass in the first half, but Navy posted 22 second-half boards while holding the Leopards to just 17 caroms after halftime. Additionally, Navy turned the ball over just three times in the second half (after committing five first-half turnovers).
The 12-point halftime deficit that Navy overcame to win the game betters the previous largest halftime deficit the Mids rallied from to win a Patriot League game. Previously, Navy had rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit against Lafayette in 2000 and American in 2006.
Bauer made 5-of-6 shots from the field in the second half, including all three of her three-point attempts. This was on the heels of a first half that saw her shoot 1-of-8 from the floor and miss all three of her three-point attempts. Bauer would tally 16 of her 18 points in the second half.
"I think Audrey deserves a lot of credit," said Pemper. "She was trying a little too hard in the first half. I addressed it at halftime and she just handled it great. What a response. Her three three-pointers gave us a lot of life."
Pollinger scored six first-half points, but made five of her nine second-half shots to tally 12 points after intermission and match Bauer's overall effort with 18 points in the game.
"Our defense is what fed our offense," said Pollinger. "We could go in transition more when we didn't have to inbound the ball after one of their made baskets. You have to give credit to Alix; she did an amazing job on the boards."
While Bauer and Pollinger were pacing the Mids in scoring, Membreno was everywhere on the boards. She grabbed five offensive and four defensive rebounds in the second half to end the contest with 15 boards in all. Membreno also was 7-of-10 from the foul line, scored nine points and was credited with two steals in the game.
"Alix was so smart on defense, it seemed as if she was in two places at once," said Pemper. "She covered so much ground out there. Her rebounds jump out when looking at the box score, but she did so many other things that won't show up statistically. She had a ton of deflections out there, while hitting some timely free throws."
The output by the Navy guards also improved the options inside for Geif. She was 2-of-3 from the field and while grabbing five rebounds in the second half to post an overall line in the box score of 10 points and nine rebounds. Geif also added a game-high four assists on the afternoon.
Homan scored 16 points to lead the Lafayette offense, with Fiacco grabbing 10 boards to pace the Leopards in the game.
Navy will be back in Alumni Hall Wednesday night when the Mids play host to Holy Cross.