American’s Matt Rogers was 9-9 from the field in leading the Eagles (14-7, 6-4) to a 73-69 victory over the Navy (11-11, 4-6) men’s basketball team, Saturday afternoon at Alumni Hall in Annapolis.
“We didn’t play individually very well, which obviously affects the team,” said Navy head coach Ed DeChellis. “Our post defense was horrendous. Their two post guys missed one shot (12-13). You are not winning when that happens.”
A very entertaining first half ended with the teams tied at 37-37. American went on an 8-0 run to take a 27-23 lead, Navy responded with an 8-0 run to regain the lead at 37-34 then a near-halfcourt shot by American’s Connor Nelson as the first-half buzzer sounded sent the teams into the locker room knotted.
The Eagles were the first team to make a move in the second half as they used a 7-0 run to take a 46-41 lead. The teams exchanged scoring possessions over the next six minutes, then American went on another 7-0 spurt to take a 62-52 lead with 7:15 remaining. The Eagles eventually held a 69-62 lead advantage with 1:34 showing on the clock.
Nate Allison (Sr., Fayetteville, Ga.) scored on the next Navy possession (69-64), then the Mids sent Lincoln Ball to the foul line with 1:10 remaining for the bonus. He missed the front end and that led to Austin Benigni (Fr., The Woodlands, Texas) scoring on a layup with 61 seconds left to make the score 69-66. The Mids fouled Elijah Stephens with 54.0 seconds still to play, and he too misfired on the front end of the bonus.
Navy rushed the ball down the court and Christian Jones (Sr., Bowie, Md.) drove from the left wing across the court and then down the right side of the lane. His off-balanced attempt careened off the rim with 42 seconds remaining. The Eagles grabbed the ball and quickly Colin Smalls was fouled by Navy with 38.6 seconds left. It was Navy’s 10th foul, which meant Smalls would shoot two shots. He made both to push the lead back to two possessions at 71-66.
It took all of six seconds for Sean Yoder (Sr., Dublin, Pa.) to drain a three-point basket for Navy and make the score 71-69 with 32.2 seconds on the clock. The Mids would soon foul Stephens with 22.5 seconds remaining. He made the first shot (72-69) and missed the second. Navy rushed the ball down the court but became a little out of sorts trying to find an open three-point shot to take. Eventually Allison had to drive the ball to the basket and he missed the runner, which was grabbed by the Eagles. Stephens was fouled with 4.1 seconds remaining. He missed the first attempt but made the second to close out the scoring.
American was 9-10 in its two-point shots in the second half and made 20-25 (80%) two-point attempts in the game. Conversely, Navy was 19-35 (54.3%) in two-point shots on the afternoon. Combined, the Eagles shot 60.9 percent from the floor (28-46) to better the 51.0-percent (26-51) effort by the Mids. American scored 40 of its 73 points (54.8%) in the paint while Navy tallied 28 of its 69 points (40.6%) in the paint.
“I have tried to emphasize to this team how important the last three games that we won, defensively we were very good,” said DeChellis. “Held teams under their average; from three (point range), from two (point range). Today, we didn’t do it.
“We told them for two days that the key to the game was post defense. And high hands on the perimeter. Post defense starts with perimeter defense. If you don’t have high hands on the perimeter and discourage the pass into the post, you have to help out those guys and I don’t know if we had high hands and were after the ball like we needed to be.”
Yoder paced Navy with 19 points and Jones added 14 points. Rogers totaled 18 points for the Eagles.
Navy takes to the road for two games next week. The Mids will play Wednesday at Lafayette and Saturday at Holy Cross.