American women top Navy, 72-47, reach Patriot final

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 8, 2010

WORCESTER, MASS. -- American is headed to the Patriot League tournament championship after beating Navy, 72-47, in the semifinals on Sunday afternoon at Hart Center.

The second-seeded Eagles (22-8) are making their third appearance in the title game and first since 2007, while the No. 3 Midshipmen (17-14) are continuing to search for ways to advance past the semifinals. Navy hasn't won a semifinal game since 1999.

"We're in the championship," sophomore guard Lisa Strack said. "It's a great feeling."

American will play top-seeded Lehigh in Saturday's final in Bethlehem, Pa. The defending champion Mountain Hawks defeated Holy Cross, 73-57, in the earlier semifinal.

The Eagles had won the two previous meetings between these teams this season by 17 points and 28 points, but it appeared early on that the Midshipmen would make AU work to beat them a third time.

Though it led only once, by one point, early in the game, Navy kept the score close for a half. The Midshipmen weren't getting the open perimeter looks like they did against Colgate in the quarterfinals when they set a Patriot League record with 15 three-pointers. They missed 13 of their first 16 shots from behind the arc, and finished 4 of 26 from three-point range. Nonetheless, they found other ways to score.

Cassie Consedine, a 6-foot-3 junior center who made two of Navy's three three-pointers in the first half, was a force around the basket. Consedine scored 12 of her 20 points before halftime. She and junior guard Angela Myers accounted for 20 of the Midshipmen's 28 points in the half.

Myers "was just such a catalyst," Navy Coach Stefanie Pemper said. "The good shots we got were created by her."

Hounded by Myers, a two-time Patriot League defensive player of the year, Michelle Kirk, the Patriot League player of the year and AU's leading scorer, struggled to produce points. Kirk missed he first three field goal attempts before she made a jump shot with 6 minutes 49 seconds left in the first half. She scored nine of her 11 points in the second half after Myers got into foul trouble.

With Kirk slowed by Myers, Liz Leer filled the scoring void. Leer finished with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. Strack and point guard Raven Harris also contributed offensively. Strack, who did a nice job defensively slowing Myers in the second half, and Harris were fearless bullying their way to the basket. Strack scored 14 points, while Harris recorded her third consecutive double-digit scoring game with 15 points.

Navy trailed, 35-30, when Consedine sank a jump shot to open the second half. As American began a concerted effort to take the ball to the basket on every possession, the Midshipmen started missing shot after shot. It didn't matter if it was a three-pointer, a layup or a 10-foot jump shot -- nothing fell as they missed their next 20 field goal attempts.

Cosedine finally grabbed her own rebound and made a reverse layup to end the 13-minute 10-second drought. By then, AU had a 57-37 lead. Myers's layup with 3:43 remaining was the first basket of the half by a Navy player other than Cosedine.

"We were able to tie it together on both ends and get a little bit of separation," AU Coach Matt Corkery said.

The win sets up a rematch between AU and Lehigh. The teams split the season series, each winning on its home court.

"It's a big deal for us," Harris said. "It's Lehigh at Lehigh. They're known to always win on their court. It's not really about Lehigh. It's mostly about us. . . . It's all about what we do when we come out on the court."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company