March 10, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Holy Cross shot 62 percent from the field in the second half to outscore the Navy women's basketball team, 48-28, over the final 20 minutes of play to post a 75-56 victory Monday night at Alumni Hall in Annapolis in the semifinal round of the Patriot League Tournament.
The win by the fifth-seeded Crusaders (20-11) over the top-seeded Mids (24-7) advances them to Saturday's championship game. Holy Cross will travel to West Point where they will face No. 2 Army in the title game.
Navy, which won the program's first outright regular season title in the Patriot League this season, falls short in its quest to become just the second team in league history to win four-straight tournament titles. The Mids had defeated the Crusaders in the title game of the last two league tournaments. Those two wins were part of a seven-game winning streak by Navy over Holy Cross that also came to a conclusion this evening.
As the regular season champion in the Patriot League, Navy will receive an automatic berth into the WNIT. The pairings and sites for the 64-team tournament field will be announced the night of Monday, March 17.
"A credit to them (Holy Cross)," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "They played really well, shot really well, played hard.
"A game like this is a complement to the run we have been on in that this hasn't happened to us, certainly in the tournament. This is basketball; missing shots, other team making them, one team having a lot of pressure, the other team playing loose. It hasn't happened (to us), but it happened tonight. We didn't have a great game, but we have had great games in this arena and we have so much to be proud of. And we are going to have another game, just not here."
Navy struggled with its shooting throughout the game, especially from three-point land. The Mids quickly found themselves trailing the Crusaders by scores of 18-6 (11:11) and 20-8 (9:30). With its outside touch off, Navy repeatedly sent the ball inside where Jade Geif (Sr., Lakeville, Minn.) started to have some success. The Mids would close the first half on a 20-7 run and went into halftime holding a 28-27 lead.
Navy was just 3 of 17 (17.6%) from three-point range in the first half, but made 9 of its 18 (50%) two-point attempts. Geif alone was 5 of 7 from the field in scoring 10 points while also snaring seven caroms. Combined, Navy shot 34.3 percent from the floor while Holy Cross made 39.3 percent of its field goal attempts.
The score was tied at 30-30 early in the second half when Audrey Bauer (Sr., Lake Zurich, Ill.) drained a three-point field goal while being fouled. Her ensuing free throw gave Navy a 34-30 lead with 18 minutes left on the clock. After the two teams traded field goals to give the Mids a 36-32 lead, Holy Cross ran off the next 10 points - the first eight by Brisje Malone -- as part of a 20-3 run that gave it a 52-39 advantage with 9:34 left to play in the game.
"When Malone went on that run and hit those two three's in transition, they just loosened up at that point," said Pemper. "Their shots started falling and every shot for us became more important, and we didn't shoot great tonight."
Bauer again was fouled while sinking a three-point basket, and her four-point play pulled Navy to within single digits at 52-43 with 9:12 remaining on the clock. The Crusaders would tally each of the next seven points as part of a 17-4 run that boosted their cushion out to 69-47 with less than four minutes left in the contest.
"It would have been a lot to come back from a double figure deficit twice in one game," said Pemper.
Holy Cross converted 18-of-29 (62.1%) field goal attempts in the second half, including a 7-of-9 (77.8%) effort from three-point range. The Crusaders also held the Mids to 10-of-30 shooting from the floor after halftime, which included a 2-of-11 (18.2%) mark from outside of the three-point line.
In all, Navy shot 33.8 percent from the floor (22-65) and was 5-of-28 (17.9%) from three-point land, while Holy Cross made 50.9 (29-57) of its overall attempts and had an 8-of-16 (50%) showing from three-point range.
"It's pretty obvious," said Geif. "We didn't hit shots and Holy Cross was hitting everything."
Geif would tally 20 points and eight rebounds for Navy, while Bauer totaled 14 points, seven boards, four assists and two blocks. Also reaching double figures for the Mids was Alix Membreno (Sr., Loxahatchee, Fla.), who scored 10 points while handing out five assists.
Holy Cross had five players reach double digits, with Malone totaling 23 points to lead all players in the game.
In addition to winning the first outright league title this year, earning a share of the regular season title in both 2011 and '13, and making trips to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last three seasons, this year's Mids broke the school record for the most wins in a single season and the Class of 2014 broke the Navy record for most career wins by a class.
"It has been an incredible run," said Pemper. "This year has been neat in that, each year there is a little bit of a story line, and this year we broke the school record for wins. That was a big deal. We have sputtered through some games in season's past, but we still came through this tournament and won it three times. It hasn't always been pretty, and this year was in some ways pretty and I am happy for them that they got this kind of season as seniors and broke some big records.
"It has been such a pleasure to coach them, and what they have done is unreal. Just their selflessness, their work ethic, their commitment, their professionalism; each of them stepping up at different times. Just so many positive memories and excited to keep coaching them for as long as I can in the WNIT."