WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The Navy women's basketball team gave a new meaning to winning ugly in surviving with a 60-59 victory over Colgate in the opening round of the Patriot League tournament yesterday.
The Midshipmen (16-10), who suffered through scoring droughts of five and seven minutes, blew an 11-point lead early in the second half and trailed 47-33 with six minutes left.
But Navy's strong inside combination of junior forward Erica Hayes, who crammed nine of her team-high 21 points into the final 5: 50, and senior center Laurie Coffey (16 points, 12 rebounds) delivered key shots in the closing minutes as Navy advanced to tonight's semifinals against Army.
The seventh-ranked Cadets upset second-seeded Bucknell, 72-67.
Leading 52-51, Hayes and Coffey hit consecutive jumpers for a 56-51 lead with 2: 06 left.
Kristin Donahoe answered with a basket, but Coffey converted a rebound for 58-53 with 35 seconds remaining.
Senior forward Megan Gibbons (24 points), who repeatedly beat her defenders on the baseline, cut it to 58-55 with 35 seconds left.
Colgate then fouled Hayes, Navy's best foul shooter, who, in one stretch this season, holed 32 consecutive free throws.
Surprisingly, Hayes missed both shots, giving Colgate renewed hope. Another layup by Gibbons brought her team within a point with 20 seconds left. Again, they quickly fouled Hayes, who hit the two free throws this time, making a layup by Donahoe in the last second meaningless. Donahoe left the court in tears, realizing a three-pointer was needed to tie.
Said Hayes: "I wasn't angry enough when I missed those first two free throws. The second time I was so angry the ball was afraid not to go in."
But Navy, seeded third, seemed almost compelled to find a way for a quick exit from the tourney. Somehow, Colgate trailed by only eight at halftime after converting only 6 of 28 field-goal attempts.
The Mids helped to keep it close by committing 12 turnovers. With Hayes forced to the bench with two quick fouls, Navy was left with few scoring options as the Red Raiders (8-19) packed in the defense to control Coffey in the low post, limiting her to one basket in the first half.
Navy coach Joe Sanchez, who benched senior point guard Melissa Melofchik in favor of freshman Marisa Ball, acknowledged the victory was anything but pretty.
Recalling a 13-0 run by Colgate in the second half that changed a 43-34 deficit into a 47-43 lead, Sanchez said, "Our freshmen -- Ball and Hilary Goodrich -- tried to go one-on-one too much. We have to be more patient in running our offense. We can't worry about the scoreboard. We have to relax and get the ball in the post to Erica and Laurie."
At their best, the Midshipmen executed a pair of nifty "high-low" post plays in which Coffey fed Hayes for layups. But these easy shots were few and far between.
Still, Sanchez and his team leaders welcomed a chance to play Army in a hostile environment tonight. The Cadets (7-20) won their last meeting with Navy here, Feb. 6, 51-50.
"We welcome a chance to play in the semifinals whether it's Army or the Knicks," said Sanchez."