They were celebrating an hour after Navy's 62-56 victory over Army last Saturday. It marked the final home game for the team's seniors, and all five of them had family who traveled to Annapolis to attend. The win also marked their eighth in nine tries over Army in their careers.
But there was still a little work left for senior captain Jason Jeanpierre before he joined the fun. More than one hour after the game ended, and with the cheers of the since-dispersed sellout crowd still ringing in his ears, Jeanpierre sat and encouraged the Navy junior varsity team in their game at Alumni Hall.
Navy Coach Don DeVoe is hoping for a bit of a role reversal when No. 7 Navy (8-19) plays No. 2 American (14-13) in a Patriot League tournament first-round game at 5 p.m. today at Show Place Arena. DeVoe said he will start his seniors -- the same lineup he used against Army.
"We're really counting on our seniors," DeVoe said. "It's a fact that at the Academy, seniors lead by example. They have to show the younger players how to get it done."
DeVoe would not have made such a statement earlier this season, especially after a 70-53 loss to American on Jan. 15. Jeanpierre missed all four of his field goal attempts and had three turnovers in a season-low five minutes. The game capped a three-game stretch in which he made 2 of 19 shots and scored nine points.
When asked after the game about Jeanpierre, DeVoe said, "He stinks."
DeVoe said this week he regretted the statement.
"It is such an over-emotional time" in postgame news conferences, DeVoe said. "I like my players a lot, they give so much to the coaches and to the Midshipmen. Yes, I regret that very much."
Jeanpierre, however, said he did not necessarily blame DeVoe for the comment.
"The coach's job is to use players who are going to get the job done, and I wasn't getting the job done," Jeanpierre said. "Coach had to put in a player who could do the right things. . . . I was upset; I'm not going to lie. But I thought Coach DeVoe did what he had to do."
DeVoe and Jeanpierre are not the only ones who appear to have put the past behind them. Navy enters today on a two-game winning streak after having lost six straight. More importantly, they might have found a lineup that works.
The five seniors accounted for all but 12 points and 11 rebounds against Army. The new lineup includes three forwards, a center and Jeanpierre, a 6-foot-3 guard. Center Francis Ebong and forwards Mitch Moore and Scott Long all are strong inside players; Jeanpierre has made 11 of 23 three-point attempts and has averaged 17 points over the past three games to finish the season as the team's leading scorer with 11.2 points per game.
American counters with a three-guard lineup that features very little inside production, unless guards Glenn Stokes (15.1 points) or Andres Rodriguez (135 assists) penetrate and then pass to open players for layups.
The Midshipmen also enter today's game with more than a little motivation. American is 4-0 against Navy since it joined the Patriot League last season. The first victory -- a 67-66 overtime win in January 2002 -- sent Navy into a tailspin in which it lost seven of its final eight games.
"I think Jason has played extremely well the past three or four games," DeVoe said. "He's been more under control; he's not taken off-balance shots. He's proven that when he's under control, the team feeds off him."