Sladky makes one count for Navy, 61-59 His only basket, Green D foil Lafayette's rally

February 08, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Sophomore Matt Sladky's only field goal of the game was the game-winner as Navy held off a furious Lafayette rally to win the Patriot League clash, 61-59, at Alumni Hall last night.

Sladky's 10-foot leaner in the lane made it 61-57 with 61 seconds remaining. The Leopards countered with two free throws by Ted Cole to close to within a basket with 43 seconds left.

The Midshipmen elected to run down the clock before sophomore swing man Michael Heary (a season-high 25 points) missed a jumper with nine seconds left.

Lafayette raced down the floor and scoring leader Craig Kowadla (18.3 ppg), who had struggled offensively against defensive specialist Michael Green, found a small opening down the lane.

The 5-foot-11 Kowadla, however, was confronted by 6-foot-11 Navy center Alex Kohnen, hopping on a sore toe he injured early in the second half.

Forced to adjust his shot, the Leopards captain tried to scoop the ball underneath Kohnen's outstretched arms and it rolled tantalizingly off the rim.

L. J. Bennett hustled for the rebound and threw up a desperate shot from the foul line that bounced off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded.

The narrow escape allowed Navy (11-10) to improve to 6-2 in conference play and climb into second place past Colgate, which was upset by Holy Cross last night.

"I'm not watching what the other teams are doing," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "I just worry about us winning our next game."

But this game, against sub-par Lafayette (4-17, 2-6) had DeVoe greatly concerned as he watched his team consistently blow comfortable leads, the last a 10-point spread when Green made a three-point play with 12.39 left.

Navy got a break when Lafayette's promising 6-foot-11 freshman, Stefan Ciosici, fouled out with 8.50 remaining. The Romanian native had given the Mids fits in the low post, scoring 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

"If we don't get Ciosici out of there, we could easily have lost this game," DeVoe said.

But Navy had several key contributors who would not let this one slip away, especially Heary, who kept a sagging offense from totally disintegrating.

With fellow sophomore Eddie Lucas, Navy's second-leading scorer, sidelined by the flu, Heary, who has been shooting erratically this season after an outstanding freshman year, took more of a burden on himself.

"I knew I had to step up and pick up the slack for Luke. The guys were getting me the ball where I felt comfortable shooting it," said Heary, who made half of his 16 shots, including three of six three-pointers. He also added eight rebounds and four assists.

But in the second half, Lafayette did an excellent job of denying Heary the ball.

"I felt frustrated, but I didn't want to force shots," he said. "We were able to build our lead by pushing the ball and finding the open man, but we didn't have that many opportunities in the second half."

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