NCAA basketball: Navy women beat American, earn first NCAA tournament bid
Sunday, March 13, 2011; 3:24 AM
Navy seniors Angela Myers and Cassie Consedine were the first to embrace at center court following a 47-40 victory over American in the Patriot League final Saturday at Alumni Hall. Their improbable journey from the depths of the league standings four seasons ago to champions was complete, and ahead of them was the program's first appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Yet the two players on whom the top-seeded Midshipmen had been so reliant all season weren't most responsible for the unprecedented accomplishment. That instead fell to a trio of freshmen, most notably forwards Jade Geif and Audrey Bauer, whose three-pointer with 4 minutes 29 seconds to play put Navy ahead for good, 42-39.
That shot capped an 8-0 run for Navy, which allowed no field goals and one point over the final 8:44. In erasing a 12-point halftime deficit, the Midshipmen (20-11) limited No. 3 seed American to 10 points and 18 percent shooting after the break in the lowest-scoring Patriot League tournament game of all-time.
"There did seem to be a point in late in that game where it we were just going to win," Navy Coach Stefanie Pemper said. "That's a really special moment I think in sports. Not to take anything away from [the Eagles], but they just were so cold in the second, and you didn't get the sense they were going to heat up. I just thought the spirit of the women on our team was incredible."
Geif finished with a game-high 16 points and added 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block en route to being named the tournament's most valuable player. The league's rookie of the year shot 7 for 10 and, along with Bauer (seven points, four rebounds, two blocks), was about the only reason the Midshipmen were even remotely within striking distance after a first half in which nothing much went right.
Freshman Alix Membreno added 10 points in an unusually lively performance from three-point range. The starting guard had made just 10 three-pointers coming in and only three in 16 Patriot League games before going 3 for 4 on Saturday.
Geif, Bauer and Membreno more than made up for forgettable shooting efforts from Myers and Consedine, who combined to go 2 for 16. Myers, who was named to the Patriot League first team, finished with seven points and five assists, none more important than when she drove deep into the lane and passed out to Bauer for the go-ahead three-pointer.
Consedine, meantime, missed all eight of her shots but had 10 rebounds while playing with tape around her sore left thumb.
"You think that would bode pretty well for us," American Coach Matt Corkery said of keeping Myers and Consedine in check. "But with Jade, she can always be tough, and they got her a lot of touches. They did a good job of getting her the ball in space and where she could make some things happen with it."
Playing their second straight Patriot League title game and fourth overall, the Eagles (22-9) had all the momentum going into halftime after senior forward Liz Leer made consecutive three-pointers for a 30-18 advantage. It appeared at that point American would be heading to its first NCAA tournament.
Navy, however, made its move with a 16-2 run to open the second half after failing to score for the final 5:33 before intermission. Membreno's three-pointer triggered the comeback, and by the time Geif made a pair of foul shots, the Midshipmen had taken their first lead, 34-32.
Sophomore center Stephanie Anya (Holy Cross High) had the only basket for American during that burst, which featured a pair of Membreno three-pointers and six points from Geif. But the Eagles reclaimed the lead, 39-34, shortly thereafter with seven straight points capped by a three-pointer from senior guard Nicole Ryan (team-high 12 points) from the top of the arc before Navy's closing kick.
"I think today's game was like a summary of what happened during the season," said Bauer, whose team swept three games from American this season. "We had our down time and everything, but how we got through was we got through together, and I know everyone is super excited to have the seniors have their last game at Alumni Hall and come out with a win."