American tops Navy, clinches Patriot crown

62-50 loss drops Mids to 10-18, 5-8 in league

February 21, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

When Navy and American battled three weeks ago, they were vying for the lead in the Patriot League's regular-season title race.

American won in overtime, and the two teams immediately went in opposite directions, Navy heading south.

The rematch at Alumni Hall last night punctuated that trend when the Eagles clinched the league's regular-season title and top seed in the upcoming tournament with a 62-50 victory.

American (16-10, 10-3) required help from Bucknell, which surprisingly won on the road at Holy Cross to give the Eagles a two-game lead with one to play - against Holy Cross in Washington Saturday.

It was a satisfying night for American, the first-year member of the Patriot League which was tabbed to finish in the lower tier of the standings in preseason predictions.

"This means a lot, especially when people picked us to finish sixth or eighth," said Eagles guard Glenn Stokes, whose 9-for-9 performance from the foul line and two late steals helped seal the win after Navy had rallied to 56-50 with two minutes remaining.

Saying he didn't realize Holy Cross had lost, American coach Jeff Jones said: "We knew we had to take care of our own business. I'm happy for the players and it's music to a coach's ears to hear that even though we sewed up a top seed, we still have a game to play."

Navy (10-18, 5-8) finishes the season Saturday at Army, and that will determine the tournament's sixth and seventh seeds.

The Midshipmen played a zone in the first half that contained Patrick Doctor, the Eagles center who had erupted for 31 and 30 points, respectively, in the previous two games.

But American's outside shooters compensated with Nick Boyd hitting three three-pointers and Vladimir Buscaglia two to provide a 29-23 halftime lead.

"We were trying to stop their inside play and they found a way to knock them down outside," said Navy senior Jehiel Lewis . "It's tough to play a team that has multiple guys who can hit from out there."

Doctor warmed up after halftime and finished with a double double (19 points, 10 rebounds).

Stokes, who was the catalyst in the first meeting, made the big plays at the end and joined Steven Miles with 12 points.

The 18 losses are the most for Navy since the 1992-93 season, Don DeVoe's first with the Midshipmen, when his team went 8-19. He was also deprived of his 500th career victory for the third straight game.

"This is a great night for American," said DeVoe. "They go from last place in one league and rise to the top in another. It's been a great ride for them."

AMERICAN-Doctor 6-8 7-8 19, Gray 1-3 0-3 2, Stokes 1-5 9-9 12, Miles 5-12 0-0 12, Rodriguez 0-1 2-4 2, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Boyd 23-8 0-0 9, Buscaglia 2-5 0-0 6, Casper 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-42 18-24 62. NAVY-J. Lewis 4-10 0-0 9, Nero 2-4 0-0 4, Moore 5-10 0-0 10, Jeanpierre 3-9 0 -0 8, Shepard 1-5 0-0 2, Ofori 0-5 0-0 0, McCreary 1-2 0-0 2, Ebong 1-2 3-4 5, Charles 0-0 0-0 0, Long 3-5 3-3 10, Barker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-52 6-7 50. Halftime-American, 29-23. 3-point goals-American 8-22 (Boyd 3-8, Buscaglia 2-5, Miles 2-6, Stokes 1-2, Rodriguez 0-1), Navy 4-18 (Jeanpierre 2 -7, Lewis 1-2, Long 1-3, Nero 0-2, Shepard 0-2, Ofori 0-2). Fouled out-Gray, Lewis. Rebounds- American 31 (Doctor 10), Navy 37 (Ebong 8). Assists- American 14 (Rodriguez 5), Navy 12 (Jeanpierre, Shepard 12). Total fouls-American 14, Navy 19. A-2,409.

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