ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A game-closing 11-4 run allowed the Navy women's basketball team to secure a 66-54 victory over Colgate Thursday night at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., in the quarterfinal round of the Patriot League Tournament. The victory by the third-seeded and defending league tournament champion Midshipmen over the sixth-seeded Raiders advances Navy to a semifinal round game Monday night at No. 2 Lehigh.
The Mids join the Mountain Hawks, who defeated No. 7 Bucknell, 63-47, and top-seeded American, which defeated No. 8 Lafayette, 59-54, as the lone three teams to have won a quarterfinal round game in each of the last four years.
Monday's other semifinal will feature American playing host to fifth-seeded Holy Cross. The Crusaders advanced to the game with its 59-50 victory over No. 4 Army at West Point.
"Colgate came into tonight with a lot of things going well for them," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "For us to pull this out, I thought we were really tough out there. I thought our defense was really solid."
Navy (16-13) put together a solid opening 20 minutes of play on both ends of the floor. The Mids tallied the first seven points of the contest and quickly built advantages of 15-7 and 24-11. The lead over the Raiders (8-22) would grow to as many as 19 points (32-13) before Colgate whittled the margin down to 34-21 at the break.
The Mids shot 48.1 percent from the field in the first half while limiting the Raiders to a 23.3-percent effort. Navy bench play was especially productive in the opening frame. Chantel Lavender (Trenton, N.J.) drilled two of Navy's three first-half three-point field goals to help the reserves tally 12 points in the opening half of play.
"We came into tonight's came with a scoring mentality," said Lavender of the effort of Navy's bench tonight. "Our teammates believed in us and were able to get us the ball to make things happen."
Colgate's offense found a rhythm in the first part of the second half, but Navy's offense surpassed the initial effort by the Raiders. The Mids connected on six of their first 10 shots from the field in the second half to open up what would be their largest lead of the game at 49-28 with 14:30 showing on the clock.
"I was thrilled to have matched the first run made by Colgate," said Pemper. "We hadn't been able to do that in a couple of games."
While the Raiders continued their strong offensive play, the Mids hit a lull. That allowed Colgate to run off the next 14 points and close to within seven points of the Mids at 48-41 with just under eight minutes left in the game. Navy's seven-minute scoring drought came to an end with a jumper by Audrey Bauer (So., Lake Zurich, Ill.). Then, after Tricia Oakes scored her fifth field goal of the second half on Colgate's ensuing possession, Lavender converted another three pointer to give Navy a 53-43 lead with exactly seven minutes remaining in the game.
The Raiders kept battling back and soon a pair of free throws by Jhazmine Lynch allowed Colgate to close to within five points of the Mids at 55-50 with 3:36 left to play. Jade Geif (So., Lakeville, Minn.) answered with a jumper for the Mids then, after Oakes missed a shot on the Colgate end of the floor, Kara Pollinger hit a jumper to give Navy a 59-50 advantage with 2:38 left to play.
Navy would sink 7-of-11 free throw attempts down the stretch -- and grabbed two offensive rebounds after four of those missed shots from the line -- to finally seal the victory.
"Colgate went on a run," said Erin Edwards (Sr., Hockessin, Del.). "We knew they would. We just had to stay together. We made some big hustle plays when it really mattered."
"I called a timeout and said something to the team I hadn't said before," said Pemper. "I told them, `We are going to win this game. We've gone on three runs in this game and they just went on one, so let's settle down.' I was confident in our team. I think to overcome our giving up a big second half run as we did tonight against a good team like Colgate, is awesome."
Despite some offensive struggles in the second half, Navy still shot 40.7 percent from the floor after halftime and ended the frame by making only two fewer field goals in the second half (11) than it did in the first half (13). What did slow the Mids down was their committing 12 second-half turnovers -- 20 overall in the game -- while forcing the Raiders into eight turnovers in each half of play. Aiding the Navy cause was it connecting on 6-of-21 three-point field goal attempts and limiting Colgate to a 1-of-15 night from outside of the three-point arc. The Mids additionally held a 42-35 advantage on the boards in the game.
Geif and Pollinger both scored 14 points to share the Navy scoring honors on the night, with Edwards converting 4-of-5 field goal attempts to finish with 11 points. Geif also added eight rebounds, which left her one shy of the nine tallied by Alix Membreno (So., Loxahatchee, Fla.). Bauer did not connect on a three-point attempt for the first time all season, but she accrued six rebounds, five points and four assists in the game. Additionally, Lavender notched a career-high with her nine points.
"Chantel is one of our better shooters," said Pemper. "She just keeps making shots in practice, percentage wise. She gave us a huge lift tonight. She is going to play so hard, too."
Colgate was led in scoring by Oakes, who tallied 15 of her game-high 22 points after halftime. She made 7-of-9 shots from the floor in the second half, but was just 1-of-6 from the foul line over the final 20 minutes of play. Oakes also snared a game-high 10 rebounds.
Navy did a good job on Colgate's remaining players. Lynch ranked third in the league in scoring during conference play with an average of 13.7 points per game, but she was 0-of-8 from the field and scored just four points, while Missy Repoli, who was averaging 10.2 points per game in league play, missed both of her field goal attempts tonight and did not score.
"I was pleased with our defense," said Pemper. "Repoli is a kid who can go for 20 points. She is such an explosive shooter. We did a good job on her, and on Lynch, for the most part. "We couldn't stop Oakes, again, but I thought our defense was the difference in the game."
Navy lost both of its games against Lehigh this season. The Mountain Hawks won a 50-46 decision in Annapolis and a 57-48 game in Bethlehem.