WORCESTER, MASS. — WORCESTER, Mass. -- No one expected the Navy women's basketball team to finish with a school-record 19 victories after losing its best two players -- Adria Schneck (suspension) and Becky Downing (knee), plus point guard Jenny Thompson in January.
Led by versatile sophomore Joanne Groth and four freshman starters, the Mids found a variety of ways to fill the void. But yesterday, they simply could not overcome the size, experience and depth of Holy Cross in losing in the Patriot League semifinals, 75-66, on the Crusaders' home court.
Trailing 40-25 late in the first half, Groth (20 points, 11 rebounds) ignited a rally to close to 43-37 with 17 minutes left.
The Crusaders answered with a 7-2 run and were never threatened.
Holy Cross possessed too much balance with the inside game of senior Karen Juda (14 points, 12 rebounds) and junior Kathy Courtney, both 6 feet 2 -- and its poised senior backcourt of Lauren Maney (17 points) and Kim Lynch (13).
d,3 Juda and Courtney were hampered by four fouls early in the second half, but Amy O'Brien, a 6-1 freshman, came off the bench to add 12 points and six rebounds.
"Basically, we took them out of their offense," said Navy coach Joe Sanchez. "But even when we shut down their high-low game, they could always turn to Maney, who can create her own shot."
Early on, the Mids kept attacking the basket, but no whistles blew as Holy Cross' big front line blocked eight shots in the first half. This drew a technical from Sanchez. By the time Holy Cross finished shooting free throws, it had a 22-9 cushion, which led to a 40-27 halftime lead.
A basket by freshman center Laurie Coffey (14 points, 12 rebounds) pulled Navy to within 56-47 with nine minutes left. But Maney and Lynch led a 10-2 run.
With Schneck and Dowling returning next season, Sanchez is optimistic about the future.
"We lost 42 points from our lineup in January," he said, "but our kids grew up in February. Next year should prove very interesting."
* No. 22 Clemson 71, No. 12 Duke 54: In Rock Hill, S.C., Amy Geren scored 12 points down the stretch and Laura Cottrell had 12 rebounds and 10 points as Clemson (22-7) beat Duke (25-6) to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament for the first time.
* No. 5 Tennessee 74, No. 18 Florida 63: In Chattanooga, Tenn., Chamique Holdsclaw scored 20 points and Tennessee rode its aggressive defense to a berth in the Southeastern Conference tournament final. The Lady Vols (25-4) will face No. 13 Alabama, an 86-70 winner over LSU.
* No. 17 Purdue 76, No. 6 Iowa 68: In Indianapolis, Jannon Roland scored 22 points as Purdue advanced to the final of the Big Ten tournament against No. 11 Penn State, an 84-70 winner over Ohio State in the other semifinal.