WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Joe Sanchez, who turned around the Navy women's basketball program in his first year as head coach, began looking ahead to next season after the Midshipmen were eliminated by Fordham, 70-55, in the Patriot League semifinals yesterday.
"We took a big step this year," said Sanchez, who inherited a 10-18 team and finished 16-12.
"We accomplished more than anyone expected. These girls proved themselves feisty and resilient. But we just didn't have enough weapons or size to beat a veteran team like Fordham."
Navy, without a senior on its roster and with three freshman starters, lacked the experience and balance of Fordham's defending champions.
The Rams (19-9) used the leadership of senior point guard Denise Hammersley (17 points, seven assists, six steals) and the three-point shooting of all-league forward Susanne Maguire and Rachelle Racht to keep Navy's defense scurrying.
The Mids, who had won nine of their previous 10 games, trailed 32-22 at halftime, with Racht scoring 13 of her 16 points.
A layup by Kelly Fitzpatrick made it 34-22 before Navy mounted a furious rally. The Mids, led by Becky Thompson (13 points, seven rebounds) and Adi Schneck, scored 10 points in 2 minutes, 24 seconds to close to 34-32.
"That showed how much heart this team has," said Sanchez. "My kids stretched themselves to the limit, but we had trouble getting the ball inside against their 2-3 zone. And we lacked the outside shooting to open things up."
Schneck and league freshman of the year Becky Dowling (2-for-10) struggled to get free in the low post against the taller Rams.
But it was still a three-point game (42-39) when consecutive three-pointers by Maguire and Hammersley sparked an 8-0 Fordham run for a 50-39 cushion with 10:32 left.
Navy could draw no closer than nine the rest of the way as the Rams converted 17 of their last 23 free throws.
This is Fordham's last year in the Patriot League. Next season, the Rams will join the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Fordham will play at Holy Cross on Wednesday for the championship. Holy Cross advanced with a 60-39 win over Bucknell.