The Navy women finally unsaddled the Holy Cross monkey.
For the first time in exactly three years, Navy beat the perennial Patriot League power, overcoming a sluggish first half for an 81-74 victory at Alumni Hall yesterday.
"This game means a lot," said Navy senior Laurie Coffey. "They're the same team as they were last year and we had lost seven straight to them. They've been our nemesis. I'm really glad we stepped forward and showed that the league is up for grabs."
The defending Patriot League champions led by as many as 13 in the first half and by 10 with 1: 20 left before the break while the Midshipmen struggled with their close-range shooting (12-for-36 from the field, including 7-for-23 in the paint).
But Jennifer Bombinski -- returning after missing virtually all of the previous four games with a knee injury -- made a three-pointer for the final first-half points and Navy (11-5, 3-0) closed to within 38-31.
"I thought we really lost this game in the first half," said Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons. "We could have been up by 15-18 points."
The Midshipmen have been playing the same game all season -- dozing through the early portions of games, then furiously and tenaciously controlling the stretch. Against Holy Cross (11-7, 3-1), that could have been a dangerous pattern.
"It's difficult to play that way against them," said Bombinski. "They have a tendency to run up the score on you. But we were always confident. We wanted to win this game more than any other since the season started."
Said Coffey: "I'm glad this bad streak didn't last as long as they usually do. We knew we shouldn't put ourselves in too big a hole against Holy Cross."
Navy won its seventh straight by converting 23 of 25 second-half free throws, by tightening its perimeter defense against the Crusaders' three-point shooters -- who went 5-for-7 before the half -- and by continuing to control the backboards.
After three early baskets lifted Holy Cross to its biggest advantage, 45-31, the Midshipmen steadily chopped at the deficit and went in front for the first time on two free throws by Vanessa Melofchik.
The lead changed hands six times in the next few minutes, but a strong defensive play by Hilary Goodrich against All-American candidate Amy O'Brien and a subsequent basket by Coffey made it 69-64.
From that point, Navy scored only on free throws, with Bombinski and Melofchik each hitting six straight.
O'Brien, the all-time top Patriot League scorer, scored 29 points and had 10 rebounds, but Navy was not heavily damaged by its usual pest, Anna Kinne, who went 2-for-7 from long distance and scored only 12 points.
"We made a little statement," said Navy coach Joe Sanchez. "The intensity level was there. I know it's early in the year, but this was a huge win. We realized at the half that it wasn't a matter of panicking. We were doing what we wanted, but the shots weren't falling. We just had to come back and adjust and respond."
The game was postponed one day after Holy Cross had difficulty arranging a flight out of Providence, R.I. Bombinski took advantage, with some after-practice shooting alone in the gym.
"I was supposed to have an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] today," said the sophomore, who had a career-high 18 points to lead five Midshipmen in double figures.
HOLY CROSS -- Ivan 4-7 1-3 9, O'Brien 11-20 5-7 29, Marcsisin 5-12 0-1 13, Jutras 1-4 1-2 3, Kinne 3-9 4-6 12, Paukert 1-3 0-0 3, Rothemich 1-2 1-2 3, Abraham 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 27-60 12-21 74.
NAVY -- Hayes 4-12 5-7 13, Coffey 4-11 5-6 13, Goodrich 2-6 1-2 5, Melofchik 2-4 8-8 14, Stephen 4-15 0-0 10, Ball 0-1 0-0 0, Bombinski 4-8 8-9 18, Fryburger 1-1 0-0 2, Marino 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 24-62 27-32 81.
Halftime--Holy Cross, 38-31. Three-point goals--HC 8-22 (Marcsisin 3-5, O'Brien 2-5, Kinne 2-7, Paukert 1-2, Abraham 0-1, Ivan 0-1); N 6-15 (Bombinski 2-3, Melofchik 2-3, Stephen 2-6, Coffey 0-1, Goodrich 0-2). Rebounds--HC 35 (O'Brien 10); N 45 (Coffey 14). Assists--HC 22 (Marcsisin 6); N 11 (Coffey 5). Fouled out--Ivan, Kinne. Total fouls--HC 22, N 17. A--463.
Pub Date: 1/18/99