Army rallied from a four-point halftime deficit and held off a Navy surge to beat the Midshipmen, 54-53, today.

Navy turned cold at the outset of the second half and watched its 27-23 lead turn into a deficit of 33-29. The Mids bounced back within one point twice in the second period but never regained the lead.

Matt Brown paced the Cadet scoring with 24 points. Kevin Sinnett was top gun for Navy with 15.

Navy's record fell to 12-11 with a game remaining. Army has won 19 and lost 7 and will play in the East Coast Athletic Conference tournament, seeking a spot in the NCAA playoffs.

Some 5,200 boisterous fans jammed the Naval Academy's Halsey Fiesd House everything but walk out on the court in an effort to distract Cadet free throw shooters. Army missed 14 to 22 foul shots.

Army coach Mike Krzyzewski, who picked up a technical for cursing, praised the Mid defense, particularly in the first half.

"They know how to block you out by clogging up the middle," he said. "It forced us to try other offenses so we could try to spread out their defense and increase our lead.

"They did very well on their offense, going after the ball, the rebounds, and getting it in on their second or third shot."

Navy coach Hamilton, who complained frequently during the game that the officials were missing Army fouls was somber after the one-point loss. He would not comment on the officiating after the game.

"Army played a very good defense and forced us into taking some shots we shouldn't have." he said. "I don't think we really did a good job shooting tonight and we didn't really get into our offense.They did an excellent job of denying us the ball."

In spite of such assistance Army led by 10, 45-35, with seven minutes to play, and when the Mids began a dramatic surge.

Navy forward Barry Wilbur sank a basket and guard Leo Latonick followed with two free throws to pull the Mids within six.

Then latonick got the ball back and kept control despite tripping as he raced down court. He passed to Wilbur, who converted the apparent turnover into two points and brought the Navy partisans to their feet.

Navy picked up two more points with slightly more than four minutes left on free throws by Sinnett. That brought the score to 45-43. Three minutes later the spread was the same, 49-47.

But with 97 seconds to go. Navy's passing became sloppy and Army capitalized on personal fouls, making good on three of five foul shots and a basket by guard Larry Cuculic.

Each time Cuculic and forward Pat Harris came to the line for those last five foul shots, a contingent of Mids in the stands behind Army's basket waved lacrosse sticks, crutches and hats in the air.

With Army stalled at 54 points, Navy surged again, and center Hank Kuzma hit a field goal and guard Paul Scott picked up two free throws to make it 54-51.

The clock was stopped with two seconds left when navy coach Bob Hamilton argued that an extra second had run off. The refree agreed to restore a second.

Wilbur sank the last basket with the clock still showing two seconds. With the clock showing no time - and a second actually to go - Army's Brundige was fouled. He missed both free throws.

Navy plays St. Francis Wednesday. The series between Army and Navy is now 29-25, in the Cadets' favor.