Navy Honors Seniors, Defeats Holy Cross, Claims Share of League Title
Feb. 22, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - After being honored prior to the game, the seniors on the Navy women's basketball led the Mids to a 64-57 victory over Holy Cross Saturday at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
The victory, coupled with American's loss to Army, gives the Mids at least a share of the 2014 Patriot League regular season title. Navy enters the final week of the regular season with a 14-2 record in league play and a 22-5 mark overall. A victory by Navy either Wednesday at American or next Saturday at Loyola would give it the first outright league crown in school history. The Mids have previous shared the league title in 1998, 2011 and 2013.
Additionally with the win, Navy's five-player Class of 2014 tied the school record for the most wins by a single class. This year's class has tied the 81 wins accrued by Navy's Class of 1999.
"It's definitely an accomplishment, no question about it," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper, who herself tied the Navy record for the most Patriot League regular season victories by a coach with her 58th victory today. "It's an incredible accomplishment for this class."
"I'm happy with winning championships," said Jade Geif (Sr., Lakeville, Minn.). "I didn't even know about that (the record). In 20 years, maybe saying we were the winningest class, that's cool, but we are focusing on the championships."
"We are just focusing on the next game," said Alix Membreno (Sr., Loxahatchee, Fla.). "We set goals at the beginning of the year, and what do we want to do? We want to win. How are we going to do that? We are going to focus on one game at a time. Every game counts. We didn't even realize this. Maybe after the season it will mean something when we are looking back on it."
Holy Cross (17-10, 9-7) and Navy each held slim leads in the first half. The Crusaders held a lead of up to four points and the Mids led by as many as five. The score was tied four times in the frame and the lead changed hands nine times.
Geif, who scored 13 first-half points on 6 of 10 shooting, opened the second half with another field goal. After Brisje Malone slice the margin back in half, Audrey Bauer (Sr., Lake Zurich, Ill.) drained a three-point shot that started a 7-0 run by the Mids that gave them a 38-29 advantage.
The lead careened between nine and five points until the Crusaders cut the margin down to four at 44-40 with 11:12 left to play. Both teams missed shots on their ensuing times down the floor, then Kara Pollinger (Sr., Fort Gay, W.Va.) sank a three-point shot to boost the Mids out to a 47-40 lead with 10 minutes left to play. Raquel Scott answered for Holy Cross with a field goal, but Membreno scored on a layup, Scott missed a shot and Bauer sank another triple to give Navy a 52-42 lead.
After Scott made one free throw attempt to make it a nine-point game and a turnover gave the ball back to the Crusaders, Membreno stole the ball and scored on a short jumper in the lane to make it an 11-point margin. A little more than one minute later, Chloe Stapleton (Jr., Cary, N.C.) made a triple to make the score 57-43 with 6:44 left on the clock.
Navy's lead remained in double figures at 61-50 with 2:48 remaining. The Mids struggled from the foul line over the rest of the game, but the Crusaders could only pull to within five points at 62-57 with 39 seconds remaining.
Holy Cross did hold Pollinger, Navy's leading scorer on the year, to a season low three points. Pollinger was able to contribute in other ways as she dished out five assists and turned the ball over just once in her 34 minutes on the court.
"We haven't had teams trap her as much as they did today," said Pemper. "We're confident with her with the ball. Our execution was okay. Their defense was tough. They were really committed to defending her."
Navy shot 46.3 percent from the floor and made 6 of 22 three-point attempts (27.3%). Defensively, the Mids held Holy Cross to 33.3-percent shooting from the field and a 4-of-20 effort from three-point range. That includes just 28.6 percent shooting in the second half.
"Holy Cross had been so hot (won three in a row) and putting up so many points," said Pemper. "They had won at Army and at American. We felt it was going to be a really tough game. When teams can put so many points on the board, it can be a little unpredictable."
Foul shooting by both teams kept Holy Cross in the game. The Crusaders made 19 field goals but were 15 of 20 from the charity stripe while the Mids sank just 8 of their 18 shots from the foul line.
Geif sank 10 of 18 field goal attempts to lead all players in scoring with 21 points. She also added six rebounds and three assists.
Membreno filled the stats sheet once again with 17 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and one steal. Joining the duo in double figures was Bauer with 15 points (and eight boards).
Scott and Malone each scored 15 points to lead the Holy Cross offense.
"I'm just happy we beat that good of a team, that was playing that well, with our leading scorer only scoring three points, us not hitting a lot of threes; a great team effort," said Pemper. "Kara not only puts points on the board for us, she also is an emotional leader for us and settles other people down. When she is just not scoring, it isn't just the points we miss, but that confidence. I thought Alix had really nice leadership out there, and Jade, and Audrey."