Navy played strong defense all season, but something has come over the Midshipmen in the Patriot League women’s basketball tournament. Opponents just can’t generate any offense.
The Midshipmen, who are the No. 1 seed for the first time in the Patriot League tournament, advance to the championship game for the first time since 1999.
Navy will host third-seeded American, a 69-64 winner in overtime over second-seeded Lehigh, in Saturday’s 6 p.m. final at Alumni Hall.
The Midshipmen (19-11) and Eagles (22-8) finished tied atop the regular season standings, but Navy swept the season series.
“We didn’t see it four years ago,” said Cassie Consedine of Navy reaching the championship game and playing for an NCAA tournament berth. “Just to be here, it’s going to be awesome. We’re ready.”
Consedine and fellow senior Angela Myers endured a 7-23 season their plebe year.
“It’s just changed so much,” said Myers, a first-team all-league selection who broke Margie Trott’s program record of 500 career assists early in the second half. “This is the Navy women’s basketball culture now.”
The trademark these days seems to be defense. In the quarterfinals, Navy held Colgate to 36 points, a conference tournament record. Fourth-seeded Bucknell seemed destined not to reach 40 points as well, until Shelby Trotter sank a three-pointer with seven seconds to play.
“When your two seniors value defense, it really definitely trickles down,” Navy Coach Stefanie Pemper said.
Bucknell missed 15 of its first 18 shots as Navy raced to a 21-7 lead. The Bison went nearly 81 / 2 minutes without a field goal in the first half. They made only six field goals in the first 20 minutes and shot 33 percent for the game.
The Midshipmen capitalized on Consedine’s outside shooting to build their advantage.
The second-team all-league selection made four of Navy’s nine three-pointers to finish with 15 points. Erin Edwards went 3 for 3 from behind the arc to score 11 points.
“We like to shoot threes,” Consedine said.
Navy focused most of its defensive efforts on stopping freshman guard Shelby Romine (Westfield), an all-rookie team selection. Romine, who averages nearly 14 points a game, scored four points on 2-of-9 shooting.
“We knew Romine is a really good player,” Consedine said. “She played really good against us. Angela really took it to heart when we were like, ‘We want to shut her down this game, limit her scoring.’”
Baylor Coach Kim Mulkey calls Melissa Jones the glue of the third-ranked team.
Jones lived up to that billing Wednesday, even though she needed to wear sunglasses to protect her damaged right eye. She had eight points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals, helping Baylor to an 86-51 victory over Kansas at the Big 12 tournament.
“That’s the story of the game,” Mulkey said. “Can you believe what you saw out of that kid today?”
Top-seeded and third-ranked Baylor (29-2) will meet Kansas State in the semifinals.
Jones hit her head diving for a loose ball Feb. 27 at Oklahoma, and she had swelling around the optic nerve in her right eye that affected her vision. She played her second game since the injury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.