Three days after a disheartening loss to its fiercest rival, the Navy women’s basketball team regained its swagger as the two-time defending Patriot League tournament champions produced a 61-42 victory over American on Wednesday night before 2,034 at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
Alix Membreno led the charge with a game-high 17 points, including seven straight in the final two minutes that enabled the Midshipmen to pull away and secure their third win in four games. The junior guard also had five rebounds, five assists and two steals with just one turnover.
Junior forward Jade Geif added 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting with a game-high 10 rebounds and three assists, and junior guard Kara Pollinger chipped in 13 points and six rebounds for Navy (10-9, 3-1), which ended a two-game slide to its neighboring opponent that has made recent bids for Patriot League supremacy.
The Eagles (10-8, 3-1) went undefeated in the Patriot League during the last regular season before falling the semifinals of the league tournament and had not lost a Patriot League regular season game since Feb. 23, 2011, also in Annapolis.
“Losing to Army the way we did up there, it was really hard,” said Membreno, referring to Sunday’s 53-42 result at West Point. “The bus trip back thinking about it, so yesterday’s effort in practice was really focused, and I think we just wanted this win today to cover up the wound.”
Geif contributed some of her most meaningful minutes immediately after the Eagles trimmed the margin to 41-33 with 8 minutes 13 seconds to play. The two-time Patriot League tournament most valuable player scored on a lob entry pass from Membreno, dove to secure a loose ball after an American miss, collected an offensive rebound on another possession and converted a layup moments later to expand to lead to 45-33.
Geif made 1 of 2 foul shots put Navy ahead 46-35 before committing her fourth personal foul with 4:11 left in regulation. Membreno took over shortly thereafter with a layup, a steal followed by another layup and bonus free throw and two more foul shots that swelled the advantage to 58-40 with 1:09 remaining in the game.
“We just really had a difficult time getting any open looks,” Eagles Coach Matt Corkery said. “I thought they did a very good job defensively. Their length, but also their athleticism, with the size, really kept our guards and our shooters from really getting any open looks.”
Reserve guard Geleisa George scored a team-high 13 points for American, which went 1 for 11 from three-point range and shot 29 percent overall from the field. It was the Eagles’ lowest percent from three-point range this season as well as their fewest made three-pointers.
American entered the game with the second-highest three-point field goal percentage (33.9) in the Patriot League behind Navy (34.2). The Midshipmen also misfired badly from that distance, missing 14 of 16 attempts for their lowest percentage this season and fewest made three-pointers overall.
But Navy’s 11 turnovers were its fewest in six games, and the Midshipmen shot 52 percent in the second half. Navy also held a considerable advantage in points off turnovers, 11-4, and points in the paint, 38-26.
“We’re really pleased,” Navy Coach Stefanie Pemper said. “Sunday was a really difficult loss. Happy to be back home. This was nice, and maybe it was good that we were playing such a good team.”