Navy earns first NCAA berth
Midshipmen rally from 12 points down to win Patriot League title
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Jade Geif had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Navy rallied to beat American 47-40 on Saturday to win the Patriot League championship and earn its first trip to the NCAA tournament.
Playing in its first title game since 1999, Navy (20-11) started slowly and fell behind by 12 at halftime. But the top-seeded Midshipmen opened the second half with a 16-2 run and then used a late surge to secure the victory on their home floor.
Third-seeded American (22-9) scored only 10 points in the second half on 4-of-22 shooting.
It was the sixth time American reached a conference championship game, and the sixth time it lost. The Eagles have come up short in four appearances in the Patriot League finals and twice in the Colonial Athletic Association.
After Navy took its first lead at 34-32, the Eagles ran off seven straight points to go up 39-34. Angela Myers then hit a 3-pointer for the Midshipmen, Geif scored on a drive and Audrey Bauer connected from long range to make it 42-39 with 4:27 to go.
Neither team scored again until Alix Membreno popped a jumper from beyond the arc to provide the Midshipmen with a six-point cushion with 2:39 left.
Nicole Ryan scored 12 points for American, and Liz Leer had eight points and 10 rebounds.
The Eagles and Midshipmen finished tied atop the regular-season standings with Lehigh, but Navy won the tiebreaker by virtue of having the best record in games between the three teams.
The Midshipmen didn't look like a top seed in the first half, but things changed dramatically after the break. Membreno hit a pair of 3-pointers during the spree and Geif contributed two straight layups.
After making only seven field goals in the first half, the Midshipmen got six in the five minutes after the break.
The Eagles limited Navy to 33 percent shooting, forced 10 turnovers and didn't give up a point over the final 5½ minutes of the first half in taking a 30-18 lead.
American got off to a sizzling start, making its first four shots -- including three from beyond the arc -- to go up 11-3. The Midshipmen, conversely, opened 1-for-6 with four turnovers.
Navy responded by tightening its defense, and the Eagles went nearly five minutes without scoring before Ryan sank a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 14-8.
The margin fluctuated between four and six points until American closed the half with an 8-0 run. Ebony Edwards turned a steal into a layup, and Leer twice scored from long range during the final 52 seconds.