Mids pull up anchor, out-quick Lafayette Navy takes 76-59 victory, will play on Wednesday in Patriot tourney final

March 01, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Navy women's basketball team reached the championship game for the first time in their seven-year Patriot League history last night by taking complete command with a 13-2 run to start the second half and trampling Lafayette, 76-59, at Alumni Hall.

The Midshipmen (23-5, 10-2) also set a school record for victories. They will meet Holy Cross for the title Wednesday night in Worcester, Mass. The Crusaders (20-8, 10-2) routed Lehigh, 83-69.

"Getting the opportunity to win the championship has been our goal since the beginning of the season," Navy coach Joe Sanchez said. "Now we're getting the chance, and it's a great day for Navy."

It was particularly satisfying for senior forward Joanne Groth, a four-year starter whose all-around performance kept Lafayette in unfavorable matchups.

The most athletic of the Mids, Groth had 17 points and eight rebounds.

"I always focus on defense," Groth said. "When I score, it's a bonus. But the way this team is playing now, we're capable of doing whatever we want."

She got strong support from center Laurie Coffey, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, and top reserve Erica Hayes who had 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

But for the second consecutive game, the Navy offense needed a wake-up call in the first half.

Just as they did in their first-round, 72-46 victory over Colgate on Friday, the Mids seemed to be anchored to the floor in the first seven minutes when they managed only three points and trailed the Leopards, 6-3.

More frustrating was the way Alicia Yapsuga was dominating the inside and beating Navy's front-line players to offensive rebounds.

On the opposite end of the floor, Lafayette was packing in their defense to frustrate Coffey and senior forward Becky Dowling, battling a long scoring slump.

Navy slowly got its offensive in gear. Hayes started a 10-2 spurt with a layup. Freshman guard Felicia Harris followed with a driving shot and Groth hit consecutive three-pointers for a 13-8 lead.

A three-pointer by reserve Julie Graham and a Groth layup pushed Navy's halftime advantage to 36-27. But that was only the tip of the iceberg.

"We talked about making a statement at halftime," Sanchez said. "We started applying defense pressure at three-quarter court and created a lot of turnovers.

"We wanted to step up the tempo. I thought our big people could "out-quick" their inside players running the floor and our perimeter players did a good job recognizing the seams in their zone."

Coffey, a 6-1 junior, took over in the second half. She scored 10 points in a torrid five-minute span to give Navy a 51-33 cushion. Harris followed with a three-pointer, and Lafayette (15-13, 7-5) was finished.

"They kept collapsing on me in the first half," Coffey said. "I just decided in the second half to work harder to get the ball down low."

If the Leopards concentrated on stopping Coffey, it left Hayes room to operate in the lane. A junior forward, she kept driving the paint and getting fouled. She converted all 10 of her free throws.

On the defensive end, the Navy players did a better job of keeping Yapsuga away from the basket. Only four of her 13 points came in the second half.

"Navy came out strong in the second half, and we just didn't have any answers for them in the second half," longtime Lafayette coach Pat Fisher said.

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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