Patriot League Women's Basketball Championship Preview

PATRIOTLEAGUEDOTORG Alex Smith, right, has helped Holy Cross reach the Patriot League title game for the 16th time.
Alex Smith, right, has helped Holy Cross reach the Patriot League title game for the 16th time.

March 9, 2012

2012 Patriot League Women's Basketball Tournament Central

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. -- For just the second time in Patriot League Women's Basketball Tournament history and the first since 1997, the two lower seeded teams both captured victories in the semifinals Monday night, sending fifth-seeded Holy Cross and No. 3 seed Navy to Saturday's Patriot League title game.

Patriot League 2012 Women's Basketball Championship Preview Get Acrobat Reader

The championship contest will tip off at 6 p.m. Saturday night from Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md., and will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network. Bob Socci will handle the play-by-play, while Leah Secondo will be the analyst.

Navy becomes the second defending champion in the last three seasons to make it back to the title game the following year. There have been four instances in League history in which a team has won at least back-to-back crowns. Holy Cross did it the first two times in 1995-96 and from 1998-2001, while the Mountain Hawks are the most recent to do it in 2009-10. Navy looks to become the fourth.

2012 also marks the second straight year the tournament's No. 3 seed has made the championship game, as American advanced there a season ago.

Bucknell was the last No. 5 seed to make the Patriot League championship game in 2008. Coincidentally, the Bison knocked off the Crusaders for that year's title contest, ending Holy Cross' bid for back-to-back championships.

Navy will be playing for just its second League championship and in its fourth title game, while Holy Cross is aiming for its 12th crown in its 16th trip. The winner of Saturday's contest earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Holy Cross and Navy have met twice before in the Patriot League championship game, with the Crusaders owning a 2-0 edge. Holy Cross won 67-60 in 1998 and 72-58 in 1999. Both games were played in Worcester, Mass.

Patriot League Championship Notebook

For just the second time in the 22-year history of the Patriot League Tournament, both higher seeds fell in the semifinals Monday night, leading the way for third-seeded Navy and No. 5 Holy Cross to meet in Saturday's championship game. The Mids went to Lehigh and scored a 64-59 victory over the Mountain Hawks, while the Crusaders upended top-seeded American 67-52 in the nation's capital. The only other time both higher seeds fell in the semifinals was 1997, when No. 3 Lehigh and No. 5 Lafayette defeated No. 2 Navy and No. 1 Holy Cross, respectively.

The 2012 Patriot League Tournament is the third in 22 years where the better seeds have hosted all rounds. In those three brackets, the visiting teams are now 4-2 in the semifinal round following the Holy Cross and Navy victories Monday night.

A year ago, the Patriot League championship game featured a pair of programs looking for their first League titles in American and Navy. 2012 marks the return of last year's champion in the Midshipmen, who become the 13th defending champion to make it to the following year's title game. On the other side is Holy Cross, historically the most successful program in the League championship. The Crusaders are looking for their 12th tournament crown and first since 2007.

Navy's advancement to Saturday's championship game marks the 13th time the defending League champion has made it to the finals the next year. All-time, the defending champion is 5-7 in the following year's title game:
Champion, Year - Next Year - Result (Opponent)
Fordham, 1992 - 1993 - Lost, 82-63 (Holy Cross)
Holy Cross, 1993 - 1994 - Lost, 64-60 (Fordham)
Fordham, 1994 - 1995 - Lost, 58-51 (Holy Cross)
Holy Cross, 1995 - 1996 - Won, 77-55 (Colgate)
Holy Cross, 1998 - 1999 - Won, 72-58 (Navy)
Holy Cross, 1999 - 2000 - Won, 87-63 (Bucknell)
Holy Cross, 2000 - 2001 - Won, 94-68 (Lehigh)
Holy Cross, 2001 - 2002 - Lost, 88-74 (Bucknell)
Colgate, 2004 - 2005 - Lost, 79-70 (Holy Cross)
Holy Cross, 2005 - 2006 - Lost, 69-68 (Army)
Holy Cross, 2007 - 2008 - Lost, 57-45 (Bucknell)
Lehigh, 2009 - 2010 - Won, 58-42 (American)

For the most part, the Patriot League champion generally comes from the Nos. 1 or 2 seed positions, so this year's matchup between No. 3 Navy and No. 5 Holy Cross is unusual. In the first 21 years of the Patriot League Tournament, there have been just champions to emerge from the third seed - Lehigh (1997) and Holy Cross (2007). The one and only No. 5 seed to capture the Patriot League title was Bucknell in 2008.

Navy is the eighth No. 3 seed in tournament history to make it to the Patriot League title game. Coincidentally, the Mids defeated third-seeded American in last year's final, dropping the all-time record for the No. 3 seed in League finals to 2-5. However, the good news for Navy is the No. 3 seed was home in those two previous victories in 1997 and 2007. The third seed is 0-5 when it has to go on the road for the championship tilt. Below is a list of the seven previous appearances in the Patriot League championship game for the third seed:
Year - No. 3 Seed - Opponent - Result
1991 - Army - at No. 1 Holy Cross - L, 65-52
1993 - Fordham - at No. 1 Holy Cross - L, 82-63
1997 - Lehigh - vs. No. 5 Lafayette - W, 65-63 (OT)
1999 - Navy - at No. 1 Holy Cross - L, 72-58
2001 - Lehigh - at No. 1 Holy Cross - L, 94-68
2007 - Holy Cross - vs. No. 4 American - W, 56-48
2011 - American - at No. 1 Navy - L, 47-40

Holy Cross is the fourth No. 5 seed in the League Tournament to advance to the championship game, and in the three previous appearances that seed has gone up against either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the tournament for the trophy. After Colgate and Lafayette fell in the title game at Holy Cross and Lehigh, respectively, in 1996 and 1997, it took 11 years for another No. 5 seed to advance past the semifinals. That's what Bucknell did in 2008, and the Bison went a step further and won the League crown 57-45 at No. 2 seed Holy Cross. In addition, Lehigh's victory over Lafayette in 1997 was the only previous No. 3 vs. No. 5 matchup in the Patriot League championship game.
Year - No. 5 Seed - Opponent - Result
1996 - Colgate - at No. 2 Holy Cross - L, 77-55
1997 - Lafayette - at No. 3 Lehigh - L, 65-63 (OT)
2008 - Bucknell - at No. 2 Holy Cross - W, 57-45

Saturday's game will mark the seventh time Holy Cross and Navy have gone head-to-head in the Patriot League Tournament, and the third such meeting in the championship. The Crusaders have won all six of the previous meetings, including the last one in the quarterfinals of the 2008 tournament.
Date - Round - Site - Result
3.5.94 - Semifinals - Annapolis, Md. - Holy Cross, 83-79
3.3.96 - Semifinals - Worcester, Mass. - Holy Cross, 75-66
3.4.98 - Championship - Worcester, Mass. - Holy Cross, 67-60
3.3.99 - Championship - Worcester, Mass. - Holy Cross, 72-58
3.5.05 - Semifinals - Worcester, Mass. - Holy Cross, 72-62
3.8.08 - Quarterfinals - West Point, N.Y. - Holy Cross, 67-53

Two Patriot League contests have already been televised by CBS Sports Network, with Navy sweeping the season series from Army with victories of 58-56 in Annapolis and 57-50 at West Point. The third League game scheduled to air on CBS Sports Network is the biggest showdown of the year, as the Patriot League Championship game will be televised Saturday at 6 p.m. Bob Socci will handle the play-by-play and Leah Secondo will provide the analysis.

Saturday's championship game will be the 21st in which the higher seed is hosting. The home team has an overwhelming historical advantage with an 18-2 mark in those previous 20 meetings. The two instances in which the road team was victorious in the championship game were 2002 and 2008, when Bucknell went to Worcester, Mass., and defeated Holy Cross in both contests. The one year in which the better seed did not host the title game was 1992, when top-seeded Fordham defeated No. 2 Lafayette. The entire tournament was hosted at Lehigh's Stabler Arena.

Home teams during Patriot League play went 3-1 for the second consecutive day regular-season Saturday, finishing with a 32-24 overall edge in the 56 League contests in the 2011-12 League season. The .571 win percentage ties for sixth-best since American joined to expand the League to eight teams for the 2001-02 season. Home teams went 36-20 in 2006-07 for a .643 win percentage, the highest in the past 11 seasons. A full list of home teams' records in League play since 2001-02 is below:
.643 - 2006-07 (36-20)
.626 - 2004-05 (35-21)
.607 - 2005-06, 2001-02 (34-22)
.589 - 2009-10 (33-23)
.571 - 2003-04, 2011-12 (32-24)
.554 - 2002-03 (31-25)
.536 - 2008-09, 2010-11 (30-26)
.446 - 2007-08 (25-31)

Patriot League Championship Game

NO. 5 HOLY CROSS CRUSADERS (18-13, 7-7) AT NO. 3 NAVY MIDSHIPMEN (17-13, 8-6)
Alumni Hall (5,710); Annapolis, Md. • Saturday, 6 p.m.
Series: Holy Cross, 38-10 TV: CBS Sports Network
Streak: Navy, One Win Last Meeting: Navy, 73-56 (2.8.12)
Last Holy Cross Win: 55-38 (1.11.12) Last Five Games: Navy, 4-1
PL Tournament Series: Holy Cross, 6-0 PLT Streak: Holy Cross, Six Wins
Last PLT Meeting: Holy Cross, 67-53 (3.8.08) Last Navy PLT Win vs. HC: N/A

Holy Cross and Navy will meet for the third time this season and seventh in the Patriot League Tournament Saturday when the third-seeded Mids host the No. 5 seed Crusaders at 6 p.m. at Alumni Hall on CBS Sports Network ... Holy Cross has won all six previous meetings in the tournament, including two title games in 1998 and `99 ... Saturday's matchup will be their first in the tournament since 2008 ... It will be the first League postseason meeting between Navy coach Stefanie Pemper and Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons.

HOLY CROSS Junior second-team All-Patriot League performer Amy Lepley led all scorers with a career-high 24 points to lead fifth-seeded Holy Cross to a stunning 67-52 upset of top-seeded American in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament at Bender Arena Monday evening ... The loss ended the Eagles' program-best 15-game win streak ... Lepley was the only Crusader to reach double figures in points ... Ashley Cooper had nine points, all of which came from beyond the arc, while Bri Malone had seven points, nine rebounds and six assists ... All-Rookie Team member Jen Dumiak led American with 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals ... Patriot League Player of the Year Lisa Strack was held to just three points on 1-of-14 shooting ... Tori Halvorsen and Sarah Kiely each pitched in six points for the Eagles, who will find out their draw in the WNIT late Monday evening after the announcement of the NCAA Tournament bracket ... Alexis Dobbs' layup 1:05 into the game put American on the board first, but the Crusaders scored the next 10 points to take an eight-point lead four minutes in ... The lead ballooned to 22-10 after Malone's jumper at the 12:28 mark, and the score remained there for nearly the next four minutes until Dumiak scored to make it a 22-12 game with 8:42 remaining in the first half ... The Crusaders scored the next 10 points and eventually took a 32-15 lead into halftime ... Lepley and Ashley Cooper sank back-to-back 3-pointers for Holy Cross to put the Crusaders ahead 44-22 with 14:11 left in the second ... American tried mounting a run with about seven minutes left ... Dobbs and Dumiak combined for consecutive 3-pointers during an 8-2 Eagle run that brought them within 58-39 with 6:45 left, forcing a Holy Cross timeout ... Lepley sank a layup after the stoppage to help the Crusaders re-establish control ... Holy Cross scored seven of the next nine points after the timeout to move in front 65-41 with over four minutes remaining ... Holy Cross finished the game shooting 50 percent (25 of 50) overall and 50 percent (7 of 14) from deep ... The Crusaders collected assists on 22 of their 25 buckets ... American shot 18 of 62 (29 percent) for the game and just 5 of 25 (20 percent) from beyond the arc.

NAVY Jade Geif and Erin Edwards tied for the team lead with 13 points apiece to lead all five Navy starters in double figures as the third-seeded Mids won their third in a row and tallied a 64-59 victory at No. 2 seed Lehigh Monday night at Stabler Arena ... Kara Pollinger scored 12 points, Audrey Bauer pitched in 11 and Alix Membreno added 10 points for the defending League champions, who will host No. 5 seed Holy Cross Saturday at 6 p.m. on CBS Sports Network ... The winner heads to the NCAA Tournament ... For the second straight year, Lehigh's season ends in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament with a five-point loss at home ... Of the 11 points she scored, none were bigger than those that came on her 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining in the game ... Navy led 61-59 at the time and had just forced a Lehigh turnover ... Navy set up its offense, and Pollinger wheeled the ball to an open Bauer just to the left of the top of the arc ... Marybeth Egan notched a career-high 15 points in 27 minutes off the bench to lead the Mountain Hawks ... Senior Emily Gratch finished with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocks ... Senior Alexa Williams finished just 2 of 10 from the floor with five points, eight rebounds and a rejection ... Both teams shot well in the first half, especially from beyond the arc, as the two combined to go 13 of 20 on 3-pointers ... Lehigh was 6 of 9 from deep, while Navy was 7 of 11 in the first 20 minutes ... The Mids used the 3 to build a first-half lead, as Bauer, Edwards and Pollinger each sank a trey and Chantel Lavender hit a long deuce to give Navy a 31-20 lead with 4:26 left in the first ... Lehigh replied with a pair of 3s of its own, both from Egan in the final 1:19, to bring the Mountain Hawks within 33-28 at the half ... Kelly Peterson's bucket tied the game at 38 apiece at the 16:44 mark of the second half, and the host Mountain Hawks took their first lead of the second frame at 42-40 with 15:17 on the clock after a Gratch layup and free throw to complete a three-point play ... Membreno's triple just beyond the midway point of the second half knotted the game at 47, marking the sixth time the teams had been tied ... Lehigh moved ahead once more at the 6:08 mark on another Gratch layup, taking a 54-53 advantage ... Navy replied again with a Membreno basket to go in front by one before the Mountain Hawks took the lead back on another Gratch lay in ... Egan sank her fourth trey of the game at the 1:59 mark to tie the contest at 59 ... Pollinger's bucket on Navy's next possession put the defending champions ahead by two, setting up Lehigh's turnover and Bauer's dagger trey ... Navy finished the game shooting 43.6 percent (24 of 55) and 50 percent (9 of 18) from beyond the arc ... Lehigh was 9 of 21 on treys (42.9 percent) and 22 of 61 (36.1 percent) from the floor for the game ... Navy took care of the ball, committing only seven turnovers in the game and yielding one steal to the Mountain Hawks. The Mids turned 14 Lehigh miscues into 20 points.