Women's Basketball Rallies to Win League Title
Navy wins Patriot League title
March 12, 2011
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - In a classic tale of two halves, the Navy women's basketball team staged one of its largest rallies in school history on the program's biggest stage, the championship game of the Patriot League Tournament Saturday night at Alumni Hall in Annapolis. After falling behind by 12 points to American at halftime, the Midshipmen allowed the Eagles to score just 10 second-half points as Navy posted a 47-40 victory to claim the first title in the school's two-decade membership in the league. The victory also advances Navy into its first NCAA Tournament.
The brackets for the 2011 NCAA Tournament will be announced on ESPN Monday at 7 p.m. The public is invited to join the Navy team at Federal House in Annapolis to watch the selection show.
"This is amazing," said Jade Geif (Fr., Lakeview, Minn.). "We have worked so hard all year, and we really brought it together at the end. We had some losses along the way, and it wasn't pretty tonight, but what mattered was the end of the game and the end of the year."
"Tonight was a lot like our season," agreed Audrey Bauer (Fr., Lake Zurich, Ill.). "And to have our seniors go out like this in their last game in Alumni Hall is great."
American, which shared the league's regular season crown with both Navy (No. 1 seed) and Lehigh (No. 2 seed) but received the No. 3 seed in tournament due to tiebreakers, connected on its first four shots of the game to score the opening eight points on its way to jumping out to an 11-3 advantage. Navy fought back to within three points at 11-8, but the margin between the teams would hover between four and six points for the next seven minutes.
A Geif jumper again made it a four-point game with a little more than five minutes left to play in the half, but American scored the final eight points of the frame to take a 30-18 advantage at the break.
American sank 6 of 12 three-point field goals and shot 44.4 percent from the floor in all during the first 20 minutes of play. On the other end, Navy was just 1 of 7 from three-point range and converted on just 33.3 percent of its first goal attempts. Take away the 4 of 6 effort from Geif and Navy was just 3 of 15 from the field.
"We walked in at halftime and it was silent at first," said Geif. "We were angry. We didn't think we should have been down by that many points. But then we said we had to have fun with this. We're playing on television in the championship game! We don't get too many opportunities like this. Let's just have fun and play together. Who really pulled us together with those words was Erin Edwards (Jr., Hockessin, Del.)."
"We had worked so hard, we didn't want it to end badly," said Bauer. "We knew it would take a lot of effort because American is a good team. Erin told us that and said together we could do it."
The fortunes for both teams quickly turned in the opening minutes of the second half. Navy sank 6 of its first 8 shots from the floor while American was 1 of 5 during the same five-minute timespan. The last bucket in the Navy surge was a jumper from Edwards that tied the score at 32-32. After American misfired on a pair of shots during its next possession, Geif was fouled while attempting a short shot. Her two free throws with 13:21 left to play gave Navy its first lead of the game.
The Eagles responded to the challenge by scoring the next seven points of the game to build a 39-34 lead with 8:44 left on the clock. The three-point field goal by Nicole Ryan that gave American the five-point lead would prove to be the last field goal made by the Eagles in the game and their last point for a span of 8:22.
Navy's last rally started with Geif assisting on a three-point field goal by Angela Myers (Sr., San Antonio, Texas). Geif would grab a defensive rebound on the other end of the floor, then scored on an inside move to knot the score at 39-39 with 7:12 showing on the clock.
The two teams combined for five turnovers and two missed field goal attempts over the next two and one-half minutes, then a three-pointer from Bauer gave the Mids a 42-39 lead with 4:29 left to play. After missed shots by both teams and an American turnover, Alix Membreno (Fr., Loxahatchee, Fla.) drilled a three-pointer from the left corner that gave Navy a 45-39 advantage with just 2:40 remaining. Both teams missed several shots and traded turnovers before the Eagles started to foul.
First to be sent to the line was Edwards, who calmly sank two attempts to make the score 47-39 with 54 seconds remaining. The Eagles would miss a pair of three-point attempts on their next possession before Membreno grabbed the carom and was fouled with 36 seconds left. She missed the free throw attempt, however, and the Mids ended up fouling Ashley Yencho with 22 seconds left. She would make just one of two free throw attempts to close out the scoring. The game would end with Geif grabbing her 10th carom of the night.
"I think effort had a little something to do with it," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper of the difference in the second half. "But there just seemed to be a point late in the game where we were going to win. Not to take anything away from American, but they were so cold in the second half and there was a point where it didn't seem as if they were going to heat up at all.
"The spirit on the team was incredible; the crowd was incredible. When Erin hit that pull-up jumper to tie the game early in the second half it was as if the place exploded. We really fed off of that energy. It just seemed there was a lot of Navy pride out there today."
Navy outshot American 47.6%-18.2% after halftime. Additionally, the Mids were 5 of 10 from three-point land while holding the Eagles to 1 of 9 shooting from outside of the arc. Navy also held a 20-11 edge on the glass over the final 20 minutes of play.
The 12-point rally by Navy is tied for the second-largest halftime deficit overcome (16, 2009-10 vs. Elon) in Navy's 918 game history. The 10 points scored by American in the second half is tied for the second-fewest points allowed by a Navy team in the second half of a game in school history (6, 2000-01 vs. Air Force), while the 40 points tallied by the Eagles is the fewest scored by a team in the championship game of the league tournament (42, by American vs. Lehigh, 2010).
Geif, who one week ago was selected as the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, was named as the Most Valuable Player of the Patriot League Tournament. She scored 16 points to go along with her 10 caroms in Saturday night's final and averaged 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds a game during Navy's three-game run through the tournament. Joining her on the all-tournament team were Membreno, who scored 10 points Saturday, and Myers, who tallied seven points (all in the second half), five assists and four rebounds.
The freshman trio of Geif, Membreno and Bauer accounted for 20 of Navy's 29 points in the second half and 33 of Navy's 47 points in the game.
"I'm so happy for the players on the team," said Pemper. "It is tough here; we are tough on them and are honest with them. We set the bar high and want them to set the bar high for themselves and take real ownership. What you saw tonight was them winning the game."
American's Nicole Ryan and Liz Leer also were named to the all-tournament team. Ryan scored 12 points against the Mids -- but just three after halftime -- while Leer tallied eight points -- 0 in the second half -- and 10 rebounds.