NCAA selection show
Monday, 7 p.m.
With less than a minute to go in Saturday night's Patriot League women's basketball tournament final, Navy junior guard Kara Pollinger came out of the game and shared a long embrace with coach Stefanie Pemper.
By that time, the second-seeded Mids were well on their way to a 72-53 win over fourth-seeded Holy Cross in front of an announced 1,554 at Alumni Hall, and the two were thoroughly enjoying their third consecutive conference tournament title and corresponding berth in the NCAA tournament.
Pollinger's 24 points, including six of 10 3-pointers, matched a career high. Reserve sophomore guard Chloe Stapleton added 19 points.
"It's just such a journey, such a grind," Pemper said. "These women worked really hard and long in a lot of different ways. Mentally, physically, emotionally. It just feels really great for them."
Guard Alix Membreno was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player with 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the final. In three tournament games, Membreno had 38 points, 28 rebounds and 21 assists. She fell two assists short of a triple double in Monday's semifinal.
Forward Jade Geif had nine points and a game-high 12 rebounds for Navy, which shot 45 percent from 3-point range and 45 percent from the field.
With the win, the Mids became the second program in Patriot League history to win three straight tournament titles.
"I think each one is special in its own way," Membreno said. "What's really awesome about this one is we're all coming back next year. You don't have that emotional, losing-a-senior type of feeling, which is different, but it's also really nice."
As crisply as they shot the ball from long range and moved it around the perimeter, the Mids were equally strong on defense, limiting the Patriot League's top 3-point shooting team to 4-for-20 shooting from that distance.
The Crusaders got within six points 51/2 minutes into the second half on a 3-pointer by junior guard Alex Smith, but consecutive 3-pointers by Stapleton and Pollinger stretched Navy's lead to 45-33. The Mids led by at least nine points the rest of the way.
"Each season obviously has its own story," Pollinger said. "It always has its ups and downs, and the game-by-game process, it just always feels great at the end of the season to reach that final of what you've been looking forward to the whole season."