Catholic University gave the home folks something to cheer about last night. The Cardinals also gave their fans some queasy moments before eking out a 54-53 decision over Navy at Brookland Gym.

The Mids' David Brooks missed a 20-footer with four seconds left and the Cardinals hugged the ball and each other. With nine minutes remaining, Catholic had been a 52-42 leader and seemingly secure, but the hustling Mids fought back into a tie on Myron Simons' free throw with 3:32 remaining.

Simons missed the second attempt and Mike Neville, the Cardinals' high scorer with 16 points, successfully followed up his own miss with 2:59 remaining. The basket provided Catholic's only points of the last nine minutes.

With 2:44 remaining, Navy's John Geshey popped in the first of a one-and-one try as Neville fouled out. Geshay missed the second, however, and there was no more scoring, only a series of lost opportunities.

Catholic controlled two offensive rebounds after misses, then Joe Colletta drove in for an apparent two points with 1:09 left. It was ruled that he had charged Simons and the basket was disallowed.

At the other end, with 55 seconds on the clock, Navy's Vic Smith and Catholic's Danny Murray collided. The whistle brought a double foul and a midcourt jump ball, in which the Mids' 6-foot-6 Simons outleaped the 6-11 Murray.

Catholic's tenacious defense prevented a Navy shot and Bruce Grooms, the Mids' captain, was charged with an offensive foul while trying to force a shot from outside. Colletta, Catholic's best foul shooter, was clubbed by Smith on the inbounds pass, just as CU Coach Jack Kvancz plotted, but Colletta fouled up the tactics by missing his first try.

Simons rebounded and, with 10 seconds left, Navy called time. Brooks, usually the Mids' best shooter, came off the bench with a 4-for-13 mark and missed again. He fired because redhot Chuck Greene, who collected 15 of his 19 points in Navy's second-half comeback, was screened off the ball.

Kvancz was delighted to beat a Navy team, 9-7, that is ranked third in the ECAC South. Catholic, now 7-9, is farther down the ladder in seventh place. But watching that lead dissipate left Kvancz needing two matches to finally light his postgame victory cigar.

"We deserved that one," Kvancz said. "We needed to prove to people, including our students, that we can play with teams like GW and Navy. We had GW down and blew it, and we needed this one.

"If we continue to play like that, we'll show a lot of people we can play, including the people at this school. when they announced the lineups, there wasn't a sound from any CU people. There weren't any there. It was like we were playing at Annapolis. Sure, a lot of people came in later, but we could use some support early."

Actually, the Cardinals did pretty well without the vocal backing that arrived when ticket sales ended and the gates were opened to freebies. They hit 13 of 20 shots from the floor in the first half, but nine turnovers held them to a 30-29 lead.