RICHMOND, Va. -- "It's midnight, Cinderella," read the sign at the south end of the Richmond Coliseum, and, for Navy's basketball team, that was the whole story.
After upsetting top-seeded James Madison in overtime, the eighth-seeded Midshipmen lost yesterday to fourth-seeded George Mason, also in overtime, 93-86, in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
It was Navy's final game in the CAA, with the team joining the Patriot League next season. But, after a dismal regular season, the Midshipmen made a grand exit from the tournament. Navy (8-21) outplayed George Mason (14-15) much of the game and led by seven with 6 minutes, 35 seconds left. But the Patriots tied the game at 77 at the end of regulation, then hit 12 of 14 free throws in overtime to win.
"What can I say? We had six players in double figures, and they all played with confidence," Navy coach Pete Herrmann said. "It was an excellent game, our turnovers were limited and we shot the ball well. We just came up a little short."
And, when it counted, George Mason's big three of Robert Dykes, Mike Hargett and Byron Tucker came up big. Dykes (27 points, 16 rebounds) and Tucker (20 points) were each nine of 15 from the field. And while Hargett (25 points) shot seven of 20 from the field, he hit six of 10 three-pointers -- four in the final 11 minutes -- to keep his team close.
"When Hargett squares, he's deadly, and it was just like what they say about the NBA -- we just hung around," said George Mason coach Ernie Nestor. "[Hargett] was able to keep us in there."
Dykes delivered the knockout blow in overtime. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound player scored his team's first eight points in overtime, as the Patriots opened an 89-81 lead. Navy got within 89-86 on a three-point shot by Sam Cook (14 points) with 35 seconds left, but those were his team's final points.
"Dykes really wanted the ball," said Herrmann of the player who scored 28, 28 and 27 in three games against Navy this season. "And in overtime, he got some easy baskets. When you play against Dykes, Tucker and Hargett, you have to hold one of them down. All three had good games."
For Navy, senior guard and All-CAA pick Erik Harris had 19. The other two seniors also bowed out with strong performances, as Eddie Reddick scored 12 and Mel Davis -- whose solid defense against James Madison's Steve Hood helped get Navy to the semifinals -- had 11.
"They definitely weren't the same team that we faced earlier," Dykes said.
After George Mason tied the game at the end of regulation on two free throws by Dykes with 1:56 left, Navy had the ball on the final possession with a chance to win. But a short jumper by Harris with four seconds left fell short.
"I drove the lane and thought I got hit, but the referee thought it was no call," Harris said. "He just called it like he saw it. I'm not going to dwell on that."
The Midshipmen, who won two regular-season CAA games, were a fluid unit in the tournament. With two key players out with injuries, the Midshipmen stunned the Dukes Saturday and opened a 10-point lead to scare George Mason.
"The kids were super. It would have been easy for the kids to come here, just play and go home," said Herrmann, whose team won its first CAA tournament game since 1987, when David Robinson was at Navy.
"It just showed the character of the players. It was a pleasure to coach them."