Feb. 27, 2013
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Navy women's basketball team may have struggled on offense, but its defense stymied Lehigh into making just 13 field goals and committing 22 turnovers as the Midshipmen posted a 49-34 victory over the Mountain Hawks Wednesday night at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
The victory improves Navy's Patriot League record to 11-2 and kept the Mids alone in first place in the league standings. With just one game left in the regular season, the Mids have a precarious one-game advantage over seccnd-place Army. A win by the Mids Saturday at Bucknell (7 p.m.) would give Navy the No. 1 seed in the upcoming league tournament and earn the program's first outright league regular season title in school history. A loss by the Mids to the Bison coupled with a victory by Army over Lehigh would result in Navy sharing the regular season crown with the Black Knights and drop the Mids to the No. 2 seed in the upcoming tournament.
"Every single game has been a fight," said Jade Geif (Jr., Lakeville, Minn.). "Bucknell will be no different. We have been going into the each game with the same thought process and focus and knowing we have to win."
"Saturday is our biggest game of the year," said Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper. "Bucknell is really, really solid defensively. It is their Senior Night and they have four seniors who play, and we'll be on the road. It is our biggest game of the year.
"Obviously any team's goal is to win the tournament championship. But now that we are here, you have one game in front of you to win the outright championship."
The loss for Lehigh ends a four-game winning streak for the Mountain Hawks and drops their league record to 6-7.
"Lehigh was leading the league with their winning streak," said Pemper. "They obviously are talented and are well coached. This was a big win."
Navy slowly inched its way out to an 8-0 lead at the start of the game, but then went nearly 10 minutes without scoring a point. Thankfully for Navy, its defense kept Bucknell off the scoreboard for the first 11:49 of the game and when Chloe Stapleton
(So., Cary, N.C.) ended the lengthy scoring drought for the Mids, her triple gave Navy an 11-5 lead with 5:43 remaining in the first half.
Lehigh's Sarah Williams hit a three-point shot on the next possession for the Mountain Hawks, but Kara Pollinger (Jr., Fort Gay, W.Va.) answered with a triple of her own. That sparked a 10-0 run by the Mids that was capped by a Pollinger hitting a jumper and another three-point basket to give Navy a 21-8 edge with 2:26 left in the half.
Navy would go into the locker rooms with a 22-13 lead at the break.
Lehigh made just five field goals in the first half, but quickly hit three of them early in the second half to whittle Navy's lead down to 24-19 five minutes into the frame. Neither team could score for several minutes until Geif scored on an inside shot with 12:34 left in the game. Geif then grabbed a defensive carom on the other end of the floor, and that was followed by Erin Meador (So., Clifton, Va.) drilling a three-point shot back on the offensive end for the Mids. Geif ended the next Lehigh possession with another rebound, with Audrey Bauer (Jr., Lake Zurich, Ill.) scoring for the Mids on an offensive putback. The teams traded missed shots, then Geif picked up a loose ball to stop Lehigh's next trip down the court before scoring herself on the other end to extend Navy's run to 9-0 and its lead out to 33-19 with just under 10 minutes left to play.
Lehigh tallied its first points in almost six minutes when Kerry Kinek made a pair of free throws with 9:09 showing on the clock. Navy proceeded to run off the next seven points to build a 40-21 lead on a three-point shot by Pollinger with just over seven minutes remaining in the game.
"It was a great win," said Pemper. "Great defense, timely baskets, great offensive rebounds and hustle; we shot free throws well. I think we just continue to get better in some aspects. I don't think we have played better on defense than that. And the maturity of playing defense with missing shots."
Both teams shot 27 percent in the game, but the Mids were 17 of 61 from the field while the Mountain Hawks were 13 of 48. Helping Navy to that 13-point edge in shots attempted were the Mids posting 18 offensive rebounds -- four different Mids had at least three offensive caroms -- to 13 for Lehigh and Navy turning the ball over just 11 times while forcing the Mountain Hawks into committing 22 turnovers.
Navy held advantages over Lehigh of 21-8 in points off of turnovers and 13-6 in second-chance points.
"Lehigh defended well, for sure," said Pemper. "We sometimes don't make shots and then other people don't make shots and then other people don't make shots. It just happens. It is amazing to win this game with some of the shooting numbers we had from some key people."
One game after scoring a career-high tying 22 points in Navy's win over Colgate, Geif paced the Mids with 18 points against the Mountain Hawks. Joining her in double figures was Pollinger, who was 3 of 7 from outside of the three-point arc to help her tally 13 points.
"We were playing really great defense," said Geif, "but we just weren't converting on the other end. We were getting some good shots and executing pretty well; the ball just wasn't going in. You could see a little bit of timidness in us with our shots not falling, but we really turned it around in the second half and started attacking and feeling that confidence. Even though we weren't making shots we were playing pretty well."
"Jade is a terrific player," said Pemper. "She was the pre-season player of the year and keeps getting better."
"Kara was terrific. She just has brought good confidence and energy and leadership."
Five Mids snared at least five caroms in the game, with Bauer's eight boards leading Navy. Alix Membreno (Jr., Loxahatchee, Fla.) also pulled down five rebounds and swiped four steals.
Lehigh was led in scoring by Sarah Williams, who scored 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the field.
Patriot League Standings with One Game Left (Opponent)
1. 11-2 Navy (at Bucknell)
2. 10-3 Army (Lehigh)
T3. 7-6 Holy Cross (at Colgate)
T3. 7-6 American (Lafayette)
5. 6-7 Lehigh (at Army)
T6. 4-9 Bucknell (Navy)
T6. 4-9 Lafayette (at American)
8. 3-10 Colgate (Holy Cross)