WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – The Navy women’s basketball team kicked off its 2022-23 with new energy and an emphatic first quarter, though an unfortunate injury late in the opening period short-circuited most of the in-roads that the Mids had made through that point in a loss at William & Mary on Monday night. After scoring the fourth-most points in a first quarter in program history and taking a 26-18 lead, Navy (0-1) was unable to keep up that pace and eventually fell by a score of 79-64 to William & Mary (1-0) on the road at Kaplan Arena.

In a game that featured the collegiate debuts of seven freshmen for Navy, it was junior Sydne Watts (Canton, Ga.) who starred for the Mids as she shot 10-17 from the field with four three-pointers on her way to a career-high 28 points. Among the rookie performers, Kate Samson (Fr., Richmond, Va.) posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Maren Louridas (Fr., Delmar, N.Y.) joined her in double figures with 11 points on 4-8 shooting and three three-pointers.

“Hats off to William & Mary, they’re a veteran team that did what they were supposed to do,” remarked head coach Tim Taylor. “Losing Toni [Papahronis] was a huge turning point. She’s such an integral part of what we’re trying to do. We run a lot of things based off of her abilities. You could see that her injury took the wind out of our sails. We really struggled handling the ball without her. We weren’t able to re-capture that efficiency and tempo to our play.

“That first quarter was who we thought we could be. Barring injuries, I thought that’s what Navy Women’s Basketball should look like. That was fun, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s what we’ve been telling people it was going to look like. Toni’s injury changed some of those dynamics and substitutions.”

The action at Kaplan Arena opened at a breakneck pace as the Mids and Tribe ran up and down the court and scored at will. Over the first 3:35 of play, Navy netted 12 points versus 10 for William & Mary. Watts and Louridas were the early catalysts for the Mids with five points each. A slight 5-2 run for the Tribe helped the hosts flip the score in their favor for the first time all game, 15-14 at 5:04. From that point in the quarter, Navy didn’t miss another shot and connected on its final five shots. Toni Papahronis (Fr., Edmond, Okla.), Samson, Shannon Clarke (Fr., Lawrence, Kan.) recorded all of the made baskets with Papahronis and Samson finding the bottom of the net twice during this run. As a team, Navy shot 84.6 percent (11-13) from the field with seven assists during the opening quarter to post 26 total points. This success for the Mids came at a price as Papahronis went down hard at the 1:05 mark and was unable to return for the remainder of the game. The 26-point output ranks fourth overall in the category of highest scoring first quarters in program history.

Ahead 26-18 after one quarter of play, the pace, efficiency and energy that drove Navy into the lead, slowly went away following Papahronis’ injury. The Mids and Tribe played even over the first five minutes of the second quarter as the game advanced to 32-24. Watts scored four of those six points for Navy. With neither team registering a made field goal for nearly four minutes, the action heated in the final 2:52 of the second quarter. William & Mary closed out the half on a 13-5 run to knot the score at 37-37 at the intermission. Navy shot just 36.4 percent (4-11) from the field in the second quarter and turned the ball over 10 times with only one assist.

Coming out of the locker room even the teams traded baskets over the first two minutes of the third quarter with Watts making both of Navy’s field goals. The Tribe started finding success from distance as Riley Casey went on a 9-2 individual run with a pair of three-pointers and another long jumper to push William & Mary out to a 52-43 lead by the 6:11 mark. Two more consecutive baskets by Casey extended the Tribe’s lead out to 59-46 three minutes later at 3:11. Successful shots by Samson and Watts helped the Mids cut it down to a 61-50 margin at the end of the quarter. Ball-handling was a problem once again for Navy as it had 6:1 turnover-to-assist ratio in the third.

The momentum that William & Mary built up in the third quarter carried over into the first half of the fourth quarter as it opened on a 10-0 run to go up 71-50 at 6:06. A prideful Navy squad fought back and scored 14 of the next 15 points between 4:38 and 1:08. Hot outside shooting bolstered the Mids during this time as Watts made three three-pointers, in addition to a fourth trey by Louridas. The final swing of momentum went the way of William & Mary as the hosts built out their eight-point lead of 72-64 to the final score of 79-64.

“Sydne stepped up like we knew she was capable of,” commented Taylor. “She’s been practicing that way all preseason. Kate had a really nice game on both ends of the court. Everybody played their role tonight, but we were missing a key cog in a tough spot. Toni’s loss also effects our defense a lot because of her length and athleticism. William & Mary found success with straight line drives. We were trying to stop them from making threes and forcing them to shoot layups, but we just didn’t do a good enough job rotating. That happens with a young team, we’ll need to learn from tonight.”

For the game, Navy outshot William & Mary, 48.9 percent (23-47) to 37.3 percent (25-67) from the field and 46.7 percent (7-15) to 33.3 percent (8-24) from three-point range. Neither team was particularly sharp at the foul line as the Tribe converted 67.7 percent (21-31) of their free throws versus 61.1 percent (11-18) for the Mids.

Navy also won the rebounding battle, 38-34, though the hosts held a significant 12-4 advantage in offensive boards. Samson grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. Her fellow freshmen Gia Pissott (Toms River, N.J.) and Morgan Demos (Downers Grove, Ill.) combined for 12 rebounds as Pissott corralled seven boards with Demos getting credit for five caroms.

Samson added to her well-rounded statline with two blocks and an assist.

The statistical difference-maker on Monday night was 28 turnovers for Navy versus 10 for William & Mary.

“We’ve got to get back in the gym and keep getting better,” said Taylor in closing. “We’ll have to hope that Toni can get better, but if it’s a long-term injury we’ll make some adjustments. We’re a young team that is hungry for success, we want to learn and compete.”

The Mids will continue early season road action with a quick trip out to Colorado Springs for a service academy showdown with Air Force on Friday afternoon. Tip-off between the Mids and Falcons is set for 1 p.m. (ET), 11 a.m. local.

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