ANNAPOLIS, MD – Army (12-13, 5-5 PL) trailed by seven points with 12:18 left, but used a 20-7 run over the next 10 minutes to take a six-point lead and hung on for a 56-55 win at Navy(7-19, 1-9 PL) Saturday afternoon in the annual Star Game. The Black Knights claimed the Alumni Trophy for the second straight year and the third time in the last four seasons.
The Black Knights led 2-0 after a dunk by freshman Kyle Wilson on the game’s first possession, but an 8-1 Navy run gave the Mids the lead. Army did not hold the lead again until a Wilson basket put them on top 47-46 with 9:10 to play. The Black Knights stretched their lead to 56-50 with 2:58 to go, but Navy scored the final five points to make it a one-point game. The Mids had a chance to win, but Tillman Dunbar’s shot in the lane was off the mark as time expired, giving Army its first Star Game win in Annapolis since 1992.
Wilson and senior Ella Ellis led the Black Knights with 12 points each. It was the ninth straight game in double figures for the rookie who moved into sixth place on Army’s plebe scoring ledger. All 10 of Ellis’s second-half points came during the Black Knights’ decisive run, which was capped by his driving layup. Ellis also had a key steal with less than two minutes left denying the Mids a chance to cut into the lead. Freshmen Kyle Toth and Larry Toomey each had five rebounds, while classmate Dylan Cox scored nine points, handed out three assists, blocked two shots and made one steal.
Worth Smith led the Mids with 14 points, 11 of them in the first half, and a game-high eight rebounds. Dunbar scored 12 points and dished out five assists.
Army shot just 38.1 percent in the first half, but responded to hit 52.2 percent in the second stanza. The Black Knights’ defense limited Navy to just 33.3 percent (7-21) after halftime. Army limited Navy, which made 11 three-pointers in the first meeting at West Point, to just 3-for-13 from deep, including 0-for-5 in the second half.
The victory marked the first time since joining the Patriot League that Army has won three consecutive road games in league play. It was also the first time the Black Knights claimed consecutive Star Games since a three-game run from 1976-78.
After Navy’s initial run, a Toomey basket ended a four-minute, eight-second span without an Army field goal and was the first of back-to-back buckets that brought the Black Knights within a point at 8-7 with 14:30 left. The Black Knights tied the game at 11-11 on a three-pointer by Toth, but the Mids never gave up the lead. An 11-4 run punctuated by a dunk and free throw by Smith put Navy on top 22-15 with 5:35 showing on the first-half clock.
Army cut the deficit back to two points on Maxwell Lenox’s first three-pointer of the season and two free throws by Wilson, but a five-point Navy spurt pushed its advantage back to seven points. Army answered with four straight points, including two free throws by Ellis with 3.7 seconds left, but Venturini was good from just inside halfcourt as time expired to send the Mids into the locker room with a 30-24 lead.
After the Army defense stopped the Mids on the first possession of the second half, Cox knocked down his only three-point try to pull Army within three at 30-27. Navy scored the next four points to re-establish a seven-point lead, but a Cox layup and a three-pointer by Josh Herbeck made it 34-32 with 16:19 left.
Navy again had an answer, using a 9-4 run to get its lead back to seven following a jumper by Jerome Alexander with 12:18 remaining on the clock. Ellis knocked down the first of back-to-back three-pointers, and Wilson scored to account for an 8-2 spurt that brought Army back within one at 45-44. After the teams exchanged 1-for-2 trips at the foul line, Wilson scored to give Army the lead. Dunbar tied the game at 48-48 with two free throws with 7:47 left, but Army scored eight of the next 10 points. Ellis’s basket with 2:58 left was Army’s last points.
Dunbar could not convert a three-point play, keeping Army’s lead at four, but Kendall Knorr hit three free throws with 43.1 left to make it 56-55. Army had two chances to take a three-point lead, but Navy secured possession and took time out. Dunbar took the inbounds pass in the backcourt and got into the lane, but his leaner came up short, sending the Black Knights to the one-point win.
The Black Knights return home on Wednesday night to face Colgate. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Christl Arena in West Point, NY.