March 20, 2014
NORFOLK, Va. -- Shae Kelley scored 16 of her 22 points in the second half to help Old Dominion hold off the Navy women's basketball team, 68-60, Thursday night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., in a WNIT first-round game.
The loss brings Navy's 2013-14 season to a close. The Mids posted a school record 24 wins (in 32 games) this year and won the first outright Patriot League regular season title in program history with a 15-3 mark in league games.
"Tough loss for us," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "Just didn't get some bounces. I loved our effort. Disappointed with our season coming to an end. Feel we kind of let one get away, but really proud of our effort. The basketball gods weren't on our side tonight.
"It was tough (to get ready for the WNIT after going to the NCAA Tournament the last three years). It was kind of like a parent getting your kids to do something. We had a few efforts and conversations, but it was worth it. I'm glad we did it. Tonight was really exciting; it had a post-season feel to it. I really liked our focus, our camaraderie, our effort. I would have liked to have made it a one possession game, but I thought the fans were great and we had a few supporters. For a first round WNIT game goes, I'd have to think it was exciting for both the fans and the players."
It also closes out the career of the most successful class in Navy women's basketball history. The quintet of Audrey Bauer (Lake Zurich, Ill.), Jade Geif (Lakeville, Minn.), Alix Membreno (Loxahatchee, Fla.), M.L. Morrison (Southlake, Texas) and Kara Pollinger (Fort Gay, W.Va.) amassed a school single class record 83 overall wins and 44 league regular season wins, won at least a share of three league regular season titles (Navy had totaled just one prior to their arrival), three Patriot League Tournament titles (Navy had not won one such title prior to their arrival), and four-straight trips to the post season (after having never before reaching the post season), three of which were NCAA Tournament appearances.
"What a ride it has been with them," said Pemper of the Class of 2014. "Just such a pleasure, on the court, off the court. Just a ton of laughs, a ton of huge wins, some heartbreak in there, but a lot of trust, a lot of honesty, a lot of effort, a lot of commitment. Again, they feel like your kids after they play so many minutes for you, in so many big games with so much expectation on them, on our coaching staff with them. Just an incredible journey. They are the Navy women's basketball program with the success they have had.
"The sum of their parts is what makes them great. One by one, they are not going to blow you away, but (it is) the way they complement each other. That's been beautiful to watch the way they have played together, played a nice game of basketball, a tough game of basketball, played offense, played defense. It has been a total joy; some challenges, but you would do it again. They represented the Naval Academy so well, so classy. We all are really lucky. When they were freshmen and we won our first one (Patriot League Tournament title), I realized then to enjoy every year with these kids because they are kind of special, even if we don't win every game. It is just an honor to work with them. So I am glad, our whole staff was able to do that. And now we come to the end of their careers and it is maybe not as sad as it would be because we had such a great ride with them."
Both offenses were clicking in the first half, especially in the early moments of the game. The teams combined for 20 points in the opening five minutes of play and 43 points in the first 10 minutes. The lead changed hands seven times in those 10 minutes, and it soon changed again when a three-point shot by Bauer gave the Mids a 26-25 advantage with 9:15 left in the half.
Old Dominion (18-15) tallied the next four points to regain the lead at 29-26 before taking a 33-28 lead. Membreno soon scored on a layup to make it a three-point game at 33-30 with 4:35 remaining on the clock. However, those would be the final points of the half scored by the Mids as they went into halftime trailing, 39-30.
The Lady Monarchs connected on 53.1 percent of their shots in the first half while the Mids made 44 percent of their attempts. Additionally, Navy was 6 of 14 (42.9%) from three-point range and held ODU to 3 of 9 (33.3%) shooting from outside of the arc in the half.
Navy slowly chipped away at the deficit in the early part of the second half. It was still a seven-point ODU lead when a 10-0 run by the Mids gave them a 51-48 advantage with just under 11 minutes showing on the clock.
The Lady Monarchs made a concerted effort to send the ball inside to Kelley -- who in the first half notched the 1,000th point of her two-year career -- over the ensuing few minutes. She scored the next 12 points for ODU on a pair of free throws, two more free throws, a layup and a foul shot, a layup and a missed foul shot, and a layup and free throw. Her effort gave the Lady Monarchs a 60-53 lead with 4:16 left in the game.
Chloe Stapleton (Jr., Cary, N.C.) drained a three-point shot to cut the margin down to four points at 60-56 with 3:50 left to play. ODU answered with a jumper, but Navy whittled the margin back down to three points on a basket by Pollinger with 1:20 showing on the clock.
The Mids responded with a great possession of defense. They forced ODU's Chelisa Painter to take a tough shot that missed the rim, but her teammate, Becca Allison scooped up the carom and threw the ball up toward the basket. The ball barely hit the side of the rim with one second remaining on the shot clock before rolling through the hoop to give the Lady Monarchs a 65-60 advantage with 50 seconds left to play.
After a home team bounce for ODU on its end of the court, a visiting team bounce cost the Mids on their ensuing possession. Stapleton had a great look for a three-point shot and her attempt went halfway through the rim before defying physics and spinning out with 33 seconds remaining. Instead of it being a two-point game, the Mids were forced to foul while down by five points.
Allison would make one of her two foul shot attempts with 29 seconds remaining. Stapleton then missed another triple, with the ball being knocked out of bounds by the Lady Monarchs with 15 seconds left. ODU snapped up a loose ball after the inbounds pass was batted around before being fouled by the Mids with 13 seconds showing on the clock.
"Their (ODU's) man (defense) switching didn't allow us to run everything we like to run," said Pemper, "but we had enough. Our biggest challenge was not making some of the shots we usually make. There was a little bit of, wait a minute ... why didn't that go in? That challenged our toughness and just knowing, you can make the ball go into the basket, make it go into the basket. We had to find a better level of that tonight. We found a better level than we could have, but not enough."
Old Dominion would end the game shooting 45 percent from the floor despite making just 4 of 15 (26.7%) of its three-point shots. Navy connected on 42.9 percent of its field goal attempts for the game, and was 3 of 15 (20%) from three-point land in the second half and 9 of 29 (31.0%) from beyond the arc for the game.
Aiding the Lady Monarchs was their snaring 16 offensive boards to 10 for the Mids and amassing 40 overall rebounds to 31 for Navy. This allowed ODU to hold advantages over the Mids in points scored in the paint, 32-24, and second-chance points, 17-7. And though Navy turned the ball over 10 times while forcing 11 turnovers, the Lady Monarchs held a 16-5 edge in points scored after turnovers.
"Our defense was really solid," said Pemper. "They shot the ball really well in the first half. I think they made some big free throws down the stretch. We were very prepared. I thought our game plan was solid. We didn't know what they would do to us. Would they zone us, press us, man and switch. That was the one thing we really weren't sure of."
Four Mids scored in double figures, with Bauer finishing the game 3 of 7 from three-point land and 7 of 11 overall from the floor for a team-high 17 points. Geif shot 50 percent (6-12) from the field in scoring 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds, Membreno also made 50 percent of her shots (5-10) on her way to tallying 14 points, six rebounds and eight assists, and Stapleton made 4 of her 11 three-point attempts to score 12 points. Pollinger, who was guarded a fair amount of the game by the taller Kelley, dished out seven assists while scoring five points.
Kelley scored 22 points, including 16 of ODU's 29 in the second half, and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead her team in both categories. She was the lone Lady Monarch to reach double figures in either category.
"I think overall we did a pretty good job," said Pemper on Navy's defense against Kelley. "It hurt us that one stretch were Alix picked up her third foul with 14 minutes left in the second half. A couple of possessions, which in a game like this can matter, not necessarily in the final score but in momentum, a couple of possessions we didn't defend her very smart. We got caught in a bad match up. She obviously is really talented. It wasn't anything we didn't expect. You would think Conference USA teams would defend her better than we can. We thought Conference USA teams defended her kind of poorly, to be honest. So with 36 hours of notice, I thought we did a pretty decent job. But obviously she is really talented and wants the ball in her hands."
Old Dominion will move on to the second round of the WNIT where it will play Auburn.