Determined Navy came within an eyelash of getting into the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years when it took powerful Old Dominion into overtime today before losing, 62-51.
Old Dominion, 25-4 with a victory over No. 2 Syracuse, was a top-heavy favorite to breeze in this Eastern College Athletic Conference South championship.
Two times in the final minute of regulation Navy (14-13) could have taken the lead. But Myron Simons missed a shot and Chuck Greene failed to connect on the second of two free throws. The latter miss gave ODU the ball with 33 seconds left. With six seconds remaining, Ronnie Valentine made a 17-footer from the corner and ODU led, 49-47.
Navy took a timeout with five seconds left, and then called another with three seconds to go. The Midshipmen worked David Brooks free in the left corner, and he bombed in a 23-footer as time ran out. That, however, was Navy's final hurrah.
In overtime, it was all ODU. The Monarchs' Ronnie McAdoo hit a follow shot in the first 30 seconds and sank a short jumper with 3:52 left to make it 53-49 ODU. Greene carried the ball once for Navy, and Simons threw an errant pass, leaving the Midshipmen without a shot until two minutes remained. A Bruce Grooms jumper was Navy's only field goal in the extra period as the Monarchs out-scored the loser, 13-2.
"We played well enough defensively to win," said Navy Coach Bob Hamilton. "We rebounded well enough. It's just unfortunate that we didn't have one more point at the end of the regulation game."
Though Navy played well defensively (holding ODU to 47.7 percent) and on the boards (outrebounding ODU, 46-43), it did not shoot well.
The Midshipmen led through most of the first half, but relinquished their lead at the buzzer and trailed, 31-30 at intermission. But throughout the final half Navy missed good shots, hitting just 22.5 percent for the half. It finished at 27.9 percent for the game.
"We need the ability to score," said Hamilton, "and that was the issue in this game. Our kids played well and I'm proud of them. They put us in the position of getting into the NCAA, but we came up short at the end."
Brooks and center John Geshay have been the Midshipmen's leading scorers all season, but in their final shot at glory Brooks was three for nine and Geshay four for 17. Geshay, however, hauled down a game-high 14 rebounds. Simons added 10. Greene and Geshay tied for team scoring honors with 11 points each.
Old Dominion led, 47-38, with 6:31 left in regulation, but the Midshipmen refused to fold, running off nine straight points to tie the game with 37 seconds left.
The Monarchs held the ball until they called a timeout with 10 seconds left to set up a final shot. The ball went to Valentine, whose jumper found the bottom of the net. But Brooks tied it to require the extra period.