WEST POINT – Army’s hot start to Patriot League play continued Sunday afternoon with a decisive 53-42 win over rival Navy at Christl Arena. In the Black Knights’s first win over the Midshipmen on their home court since 2008, Army shot an impressive 46 percent for the game (23-50) as junior Jen Hazlett and freshman Kelsey Minato scored 17 points apiece, each shooting 50 percent or higher.
Army (14-4, 3-0 Patriot League), who was swept by Navy (9-9, 2-1 PL) in last season’s meeting, had its best shooting outing against the Midshipmen since making 50 percent of its attempts (30-60) on Jan. 21, 2006. The Black Knights improved to 9-0 this season when shooting 40 percent or better and have eclipsed that mark in four consecutive games, including all three league contests.
Navy shot just 36 percent (18-50) for the game in its lowest scoring output against Army since 1990, when the Black Knights won 47-41.
Navy took the lead early and held the advantage for most of the first half thanks to making three of its first four attempts from beyond the arc. The Midshipmen entered the game as the best three-point shooting team in the conference in both accuracy and triples per game.
Despite trailing by as much as six points in the early goings, Army battled back after back-to-back threes by Hazlett and Minato with 8:38 left in the first, giving the Black Knights a 14-12 lead. Army never relinquished that lead despite Navy keeping things close for the remainder of the first stanza. The Black Knights took a five-point lead into halftime, 25-20, the 14th time this season they outscored their opponent through the first 20 minutes.
Senior Anna Simmers scored nine of her 11 points in the first half.
Army came out firing in the second while Navy started out sputtering, missing two shots and turning the ball over twice in its first four possessions, while the Black Knights scored on three of their first four tries as their lead grew to double digits (11) just two minutes into the final period.
The Midshipmen shaved Army’s lead to seven, 31-24, with 14:45 remaining which would be as close as they would come to the Black Knights. Army’s hot shooting continued through the second half, which included a 4-for-6 clip from outside to seal the game for the Black Knights.
Navy’s Jade Geif, the Patriot League’s Preseason Player of the Year, led the Midshipmen with 12 points, while Alix Membreno chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds.
Army also got solid contributions from sophomore Olivia Schretzman (four points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks) and freshman Aimee Oertner (four points, three rebounds, four blocks, four steals) despite facing the dominant Geif.
"Geif is one of the best post players I’ve ever seen," said Army head coach Dave Magarity after the game. "She is just so poised and such a great team player, any time you can get her to play a little bit out of her comfort zone is beneficial.
"For us, Minato is special; I’ve said that after a lot of games this year," Magarity continued. "Quite honestly, she may be one of the best guards I’ve ever coached in my 30 years, men’s or women’s. She has such an ability to break you down and has so much poise, she’s a true player."
The win over Navy brings the all-time series within one game under .500 for the Black Knights, as the Midshipmen lead 30-29 with the Star Game set for Feb. 16 in Annapolis, Md. Army will have the chance to win both a Gold Star and a Silver Star for the first time since 2009, after already defeating Air Force this season.
"I thought our scheduling philosophy that we used, with such a young team, we didn’t go crazy," said Magarity. "Some teams in the league went out and played top-25 teams and we didn’t and it gave us confidence early. We came out of non-league with 11 wins, we could have very easily come out with just one or two losses instead of four, but this is big. This is a statement game for us. We have them again in the Star Game which will be a tough environment down there, but this is huge for us, to win at home for the first time since 2008. We’ve been pretty good, we just haven’t been able to win here so this is pretty big for us."
Army will stay home for its lone set of back-to-back Patriot League games at Christl Arena this year when Colgate comes to West Point on Wednesday. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.