The Navy women’s basketball team left it all out on the line on Saturday in a service academy battle for the ages with archrival Army. Back-and-forth throughout the 40 minutes of action at Alumni Hall before a national television audience, a layup by Army’s Trinity Hardy with two seconds remaining in regulation gave the visiting Black Knights (10-13, 8-5 PL) the come-from-behind, 66-64 victory over the Mids (1-23, 1-12 PL). With the win Army secured the 2023 Women’s Basketball Star as part of the 2022-23 Star Series presented by USAA.

Playing in her final Star game, Lindsay Llewellyn (Sr., North East, Md.) was a standout for the Mids as she recorded her first career double-double with a dominant 25-point, 10-rebound performance over 39 minutes of action. Both her point and rebounding totals were career-highs. Additionally, Llewellyn had four assists and drew 10 personal fouls. Sydne Watts (Jr., Canton, Ga.) and Maren Louridas (Fr., Delmar, N.Y.) were strong in support of Llewellyn as each player recorded 13 points.

 “I’m so proud of my team, I don’t want to coach anybody else. They left it all out there,” remarked head coach Tim Taylor. “Everybody looks at our record, but what they don’t realize is that these kids show up every day looking to compete and get better. They come in for extra shooting all the time wanting to improve. They’re young and they’re really going through a tough time right now in terms of wins and losses, but they show up every day. It’s hard to see that type of effort come down to one play.

“I thought we really played well in the first half. We boxed out on the glass. I thought we played four quarters today in a pressure-packed game. We executed pretty well. We had a few turnovers that went against us in the second half, but the effort and fight was there right through the end.”

Tight through the contest, neither team broke out to more than a three-point lead the entire first quarter as an early 6-5 lead for Army by the 5:24 mark was answered back at 3:38 by Morganne Andrews (Jr., Martinsburg, W.Va.), who grabbed an offensive rebound and quickly bounced up for the putback. The Black Knights lived and died with the three-point shot in the first quarter as a third triple of the frame at 2:42 by Natalie Rhine allowed the visitors to re-take the lead, 9-7. Navy was able to use the long ball to its benefit down the stretch as both Louridas and Watts hit nothing but the bottom of the net on their three-point attempts to push the Mids ahead at the quarter break, 14-13.

With Navy negating looks in the paint to Army’s dominant senior duo of Kam Hall and Sabria Hunter (they took just three combined shots in the first quarter), the Black Knights dialed up the three-ball again early in the second quarter to knot the game at 16-16 courtesy of a Lauren Lithgow trey at 8:24. From that juncture, the Mids found their next gear and streaked ahead on a 11-3 run over the next 5:18. All parts of Navy’s game was working during this run as four different players scored from all three levels, including a dramatic shot clock buzzer beater from Sam Schofield (Jr., Maumee, Ohio) at 5:15. Ahead 27-19, the Mids kept the foot on the gas and eventually built out a 12-point lead of 35-23 with 66 seconds remaining in the first half. Louridas put the exclamation on Navy’s largest lead of the game with a three-pointer. A late 5-0 run by Army helped the visitors cut its deficit to just seven points at the halftime intermission.

Foul trouble was the story of the first half as four starters from each team were saddled with two or more fouls. Navy played through its foul trouble and shot 43.3 percent (13-30) from the field and 66.7 percent (4-6) from three-point range. The Mids efficiently assisted on eight of their 13 made baskets

“There’s nothing better than the atmosphere for an Army-Navy game,” commented Taylor about the crowd and support at Alumni Hall on Saturday. “It was an incredible atmosphere up at West Point and again today it was incredible in our home arena. Very few people have the opportunity to play in an environment like this. You have to have fun with it. You get so much energy from the excitement in the arena.

With the score 35-28 coming out in the second half, the action bounced back-and-forth as the teams traded baskets over the opening five minutes of the third quarter. Watts bolstered the Mids’ early push with her team’s first five points of the half. Ahead 40-34, Navy increased its lead out to nine, 45-36, by the 3:46 mark after Llewellyn converted an ‘and-one’ and Louridas knocked down a long jumper. That nine-point margin stayed throughout the next 3:42 until a last-second three-pointer by Natalie Rhine with four seconds left closed Army’s deficit to just six points, 48-42

Like any service academy contest, the nip-and-tuck battle raged deep into the game. Both teams opened the fourth quarter evenly with a pair of baskets over the first three minutes to advance the score to 52-46. Already surpassing her previous career-high of 15 points with her first field goal of the fourth period, Llewellyn reached the 20-point plateau for the first-time in her time at Navy with a three-pointer at 6:43 to bubble the Mids’ lead out to nine points. After a banked-in corner three-pointer from Army’s Kam Hall, Kate Samson (Fr., Richmond, Va.) answered back with an old-fashioned three-point play with a jumper and an ‘and-one’ at 5:14. With the score 58-49, the visitors from West Point rattled off nine straight points over a span of under two minutes to knot the game at 58-58 with 3:23 left in regulation

The neck-and-neck action continued over the next two minutes as Llewellyn scored three points for Navy, while Army rode four points from Sam McNaughton to hold a 62-61 with 1:18 to play. A free throw by Louridas re-tied the score at 62-62 with 59 second left. Llewellyn’s completed her first double-double as she grabbed her tenth rebound of the game at 0:46 before heading down the court and dropping in her 24th and 25th points of the game with a driving layup 17 seconds later. With the score 64-62 Navy, Army rallied in the closing moments of the game and went 2-2 at the foul line followed by Hardy’s game-winning layup with two seconds to go to capture the 66-64 victory

“What a performance by Lindsay,” commented Taylor. “That was easily the best game of her career with the lights shining brightest; 25 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and guarded Reese Ericson when she was in the game. She did a great job defensively. I can’t say enough about her. She carried us today. She put the team on her back. She hit big shot after big shot. She scored 14 points in the second half when we really needed her. She’s always played big in the Army games.

For the game, Navy outshot Army from the field, 48.0 percent (24-50) to 37.9 (22-58) and nominally from the foul line, 71.4 percent (10-14) to 70.0 (14-20). Both teams were equally proficient from three-point range at 50.0 as the Black Knights were 8-16, while the Mids were 6-12.

In the battle on the boards, Navy had a slight three-rebound advantage of 36-33. Llewellyn led all rebounders with a career-high 10 caroms. Both teams were active on the offensive glass with a combined 28 o-boards, 16 for the Black Knights and 12 for the Mids.

Defensively, Navy forced Army into 10 turnovers, while blocking five shots. Gia Pissott (Fr., Toms River, N.J.) played tight defense throughout her 24 minutes of action and blocked three shots to go along with one credited steal.

“The season’s not over,” closed Taylor. “This group has not quit. The seniors haven’t quit. They keep playing for each other and leaving it all out there. Our team continues to fight and show up every day. I can’t be prouder of them for that. That’s a blessing for me as a coach. I don’t want to coach anybody else. They’re going to get better and learn for this. People have no idea where this program is going to be in the future. Our freshmen will grow up and understand what it takes. Every one of our players are getting better. 

“Hats off to our seniors; Mimi, Lindsay and Imani. They’re tremendous women. Our country should be proud to have them as future leaders in the fleet. I’m so proud of this team. They fought with everything they had.”

Navy will continue the second half of its Patriot League season with a home matchup versus Lehigh on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Tip-off between the Mids and Mountain Hawks is set for 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply