Anderson takes over at crunch time, leads Navy to first Patriot League win

Bill Wagner
Contact Reporterbwagner@capgaznews.com

Shawn Anderson was having a miserable outing through 32-plus minutes. Navy’s standout swingman was scoreless on 0-for-9 field goal shooting with just under eight minutes remaining in the game.

However, Anderson was undeterred by those struggles and did what a senior captain should when the outcome hangs in the balance.

Anderson took over and scored seven points on three straight possessions to give Navy the lead for good in a back-and-forth battle with visiting Lehigh.

Anderson scored all 11 of his points down the stretch as Navy broke open a close game and pulled away to a 78-66 win before an announced audience of 632 on Tuesday night at Alumni Hall.

Junior forward George Kiernan scored a career-high 27 points to lead Navy (10-5), which evened its record in the Patriot League at 1-1. Junior point guard Hasan Abdullah scored all 17 of his points in the second half for the Midshipmen, who made 20 of 23 free throws in the contest.

“Down the stretch they started to key in on George and Hasan because they were having great games. So it kind of opened up some areas for me, and my teammates kept encouraging me to be aggressive and look to create,” Anderson said.

In years past, Anderson might have stopped shooting after starting a game with nine straight missed field goals. As a senior leader and the team’s top scorer, the 6-foot-4 guard knows he cannot simply disappear.

“You have to be resilient and you have to keep pushing. You just have to stay patient. There’s no reason to get down on yourself. Everyone has bad games and you just have to keep plugging away.’’

Anderson also grabbed seven rebounds and dished off a five assists. Head coach Ed DeChellis was pleased his captain found other ways to help the team.

“Some nights you don’t have it shooting the basketball so you have to do other things,” said DeChellis, who credited assistant coach Jon Perry with making sure Anderson got more touches down the stretch.

“Shawn came up big at the end. He took defenders off the dribble and hit a few baby jump shots. I was happy to see him step up like that,” DeChellis said.

Freshman guard Cam Davis hit some big shots in the second half in adding 14 points for Navy, which outscored Lehigh 25-10 over the final 7:51 after Anderson got going. Davis sank a 3-pointer from the corner with 3:03 remaining to spark the game-ending run.

“Cam hit that one three in the corner, which was the dagger,” DeChellis said. “He’s a tough kid who doesn’t flinch. He’s a gutty little freshman who plays like he belongs.”

Cohen finished with 17 points to lead Lehigh (6-7, 1-1), which failed to score on its final seven possessions. Sophomore forward Pat Andree made four 3-pointers in netting 12 points for the Mountain Hawks, who shot just 33 percent (11-for-33) from the field in the second half.

“Defensively, I thought the zone was very good for us tonight. I thought we really defended well in the second half,” DeChellis said. “In the first half they were really taking us off the dribble. We didn’t do a good job of containing the ball. So we went to the zone to try to keep them somewhat off-balance.”

Lehigh head coach Brett Reed was disappointed to see his squad allow Navy to score 47 points on 57 percent shooting in the second half.

“In the second half we did a poor job of containing the dribble penetration by Navy’s guards, particularly Abdullah,” Reed said. “When you give up 47 points in a half that puts a lot of pressure on your offense. Unfortunately, our offense hit a cold spell at a critical time.”

Navy was in danger of enduring its first three-game losing streak of the season and starting 0-2 in the Patriot League. Considering the circumstances, it was somewhat of a must-win for the Mids.

“It was a really, really important game for us. We couldn’t go down 0-2 if we have plans on hosting the tournament here,” Kiernan said. “That’s our goal. We want the Patriot League championship to go through Alumni Hall.”

Kiernan certainly did his part, making four 3-pointers and finishing 11-for-14 from the free throw line. The 6-foot-7, 225-pounder easily surpassed his previous career-best of 18 points.

“Honestly, shooting the ball is pretty easy when you are getting great looks and are in great rhythm thanks to the guys who were creating,” Kiernan said. “We knew they were going to key in on Shawn and Bryce. They were really holding them tight on the ball screens, which allowed me to get free.”

Kiernan’s 11 made foul shots were also a career-high and he matched Anderson with seven rebounds for good measure.

“Trying to get to the free throw line more is something the coaches have challenged me with,” Kiernan said. “I want to be one of the best free throw shooters on the team. I’m kind of bummed that I missed three.”

Senior guard Bryce Dulin, Navy’s second-leading scorer, missed all three shots he took in being held without a point. It ultimately did not matter as Kiernan and Davis helped the Mids score 43 bench points.

“We had tremendous play off the bench from George Kiernan and Cam Davis. That’s why we’re a team,” DeChellis said. “Bryce Dulin didn’t play very well tonight. Shawn Anderson didn’t have one of his better nights. Other guys stepped up and we found a way to win the game.”

Navy received good news on two fronts prior to its Patriot League home opener.

First, the Midshipmen learned that starting power forward Tom Lacey would be able to play. Lacey, who sat out Friday night’s loss at Loyola with a recurring ankle injury, had been a game-time decision.

Navy then found out that Lance Tejada, one of Lehigh’s starters, would not play due to an ankle injury. The East Carolina transfer is the Mountain Hawks’ leading scorer with 14.3 points per game.

DeChellis knew Lacey’s availability would help Navy in the defense and rebounding departments. However, the 6-foot-7, 235-pound senior provided an early lift on offense by scoring five quick points, knocking down the first 3-pointer of his career.

Neither of those apparent advantages benefitted Navy during the first half. Jordan Cohen, who started in place of Tejada, caught fire in the first half and carried Lehigh. Meanwhile, Lacey, who was wearing a bulky brace on his ankle, played limited minutes and did not do much after that initial outburst.

Cohen scored 15 of his points in the first half as Lehigh took a 35-31 lead into intermission. Cohen made 5 of 7 field goals, including a pair of 3-pointers, for the Mountain Hawks, who led by seven on a couple occasions.

Kiernan achieved his career-high by halftime with 21 points on the strength of 8-for-10 free throw shooting.

Abdullah, who was held scoreless in the first half, came out much more aggressive to start the second half and scored seven points in the opening minute and a half. Abdullah drained a trey from the wing then made consecutive driving bank shots as the Mids regained the lead, 38-37 at the 18:21 mark.

“Hasan didn’t do much in the first half at all. He was just kind of out there,” DeChellis said. “He’s a good basketball player and needs to play like a good basketball player. He’s a point guard that can score and showed that in the second half.”

Lehigh responded immediately, converting consecutive three-point plays to reclaim a five-point lead. Caleb Bennett’s strong drive and subsequent free throw made it 43-38 with 15:50 remaining.

However, Navy quickly answered with a 13-3 run to take a five-point lead of its own. Davis hit three pull-up jumpers to key the run, which Kiernan closed out with a 3-pointer that gave the Mids their largest lead of the game at 51-46 with 11:02 to go.

It didn’t take Navy long to give up that advantage as Andree swished back-to-back 3-pointers from the left corner to put the Mountain Hawks back ahead by three. There would be two more ties before the Midshipmen took the lead for good, 65-61 at 4:42, courtesy of Anderson’s personal 7-0 run.

“I didn’t think we started very well, but we surely finished well. We really made some nice basketball plays over the last four or five minutes,” DeChellis said. “It was a very important game. There was pressure because kids know you can’t go down 0-2 in the league.”

twitter.com/BWagner_CapGaz

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
72°