American edges Navy in overtime

Midshipmen fall, 67-66, in key Patriot game

January 31, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- In the first chapter of what is to be Navy's telltale week in the Patriot League regular-season race, the Midshipmen had their hearts broken last night.

American University gained a share of first place in the conference, outlasting Navy, 67-66, in overtime, before 1,865 fans at Bender Arena.

Neither side led by more than five points in a game that was resolved by two free throws from American guard Steven Miles and one by forward Keith Gray in the final 13 seconds.

But the real catalyst for the Eagles was whippet-like guard Glenn Stokes, who hit one big three-pointer after another for a team that had trouble dominating inside against the Navy zone.

"Stokes was just too much for us," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "We didn't have any answer. He had gravity in his favor."

In overtime, the Midshipmen shot ahead early, but Stokes hit two three-pointers to keep them from getting away. A whirling drive by Miles (17 points, 14 rebounds) gave American the lead for good before Navy's Scott Long (team-high 15 points) missed his only free throw in eight attempts with 15 seconds remaining.

Two foul shots by Miles and one by Gray finally finished the Midshipmen before Navy's Jehiel Lewis hit an inconsequential three-pointer just before the buzzer.

"It came down to which team had the last possession," said Lewis (13 points, nine rebounds, five assists). "You have to give Stokes all the credit. He hits the big shots at the right times.

"Hey, we were both playing for No. 1 [in the league] and that's what this game looked like."

Said Long: "There certainly wasn't a lack of effort. We can't dwell on this loss because we've got a tough game coming up Saturday."

Defending Patriot League champion Holy Cross -- which captured a share of the lead with the Eagles by beating Bucknell -- visits Annapolis on Saturday in what has become almost a must win for the Midshipmen if they hope to finish first in the regular season.

American (11-9, 5-2), the newest member of the Patriot League, beat Florida State in December to give the league its first win over the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Eagles have beaten Navy in eight of their past nine meetings. Last night's meeting was the first since both were members of the Colonial Athletic Association in 1990-91.

"We needed to keep the [winning] thing going on the road," DeVoe said. "It didn't seem to be. But I'm proud of the way our kids hung in there."

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