Navy goes overtime to reach Patriot final

March 06, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

For the first time since David Robinson was a Midshipman, Navy is going to play for a conference championship in basketball.

Navy fought off a case of the first-half blahs last night and outlasted Holy Cross in overtime, 93-91, to win a thrilling Patriot .. League semifinal at Alumni Hall.

The result put top-seeded Navy (16-12) one victory away from its first NCAA tournament since 1987, when Robinson was a senior and all was well on the academy court.

Navy will play third-seeded Colgate on Friday at Alumni Hall. Colgate had a bitter battle of its own, but repelled upset specialist Lafayette, 76-73, in last night's opener.

It was a tough loss for the defending champion Crusaders, who also fell to Navy, 99-91, in overtime and 83-81 during the regular season.

"I've seen some kids who have been up against some odds, but these guys take the cake," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "This was one of those incredible, gutsy efforts."

Navy was behind by as many as 15 in the first half (41-26 and 43-28) and trailed by 14 at the break.

DeVoe had his players running through practice sequences before the second half "to see if we could get our offense back together," and the strategy worked.

The Midshipmen, stymied early by poor perimeter shooting (they were 3-for-18 from three-point range in the game), turned to pressure defense and offensive rebounding to gain momentum.

Holy Cross was running into another problem -- foul trouble -- and the combination enabled Navy to chip away at the deficit.

T. J. Hall was all over the court stealing and scoring. Alex Kohnen and Wes Cooper controlled both backboards, and freshman Brian Walker directed the offense.

Reserve Randy Torgrimson eased Navy's outside shooting woes with two clutch three-pointers.

The Midshipmen needed them all to offset a 43-point assault by all-conference forward Rob Feaster, who scored 22 of the final 25 Holy Cross points.

Still, Crusaders coach George Blaney cited rebounding as the key.

"They were aggressive off the glass the entire second half," he said. "That changed the tempo. The rebounds tell the story [52-29 Navy edge]."

Holy Cross repulsed a Navy run to regain a 79-72 lead, but Torgrimson hit a three-pointer to get the Midshipmen firing again and then, in Blaney's words "it became a dogfight, a question of who would score last."

The Crusaders got the final shot in overtime, but after three timeouts, settled for a 22-foot three-point attempt by Ted Bettencourt, not exactly what they wanted.

"They were trying to have Feaster take it in the middle. They knew I'd be guarding him and all they had to do was throw it over to get it to him. But it never got there," said Walker.

"These guys know we're a little bit short-handed, so they're playing with a cause," said DeVoe, referring to the absence of teammate Vic Mickel, who was suspended from the team by an academy administrative action. "As long as we have five guys playing like Vic Mickel would have, we'll be OK."

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