The 20th victory of the season was one of the toughest for Navy.
Underdog Holy Cross proved a gritty opponent, leading at halftime and taking the Midshipmen almost to the wire before dropping a 58-51 Patriot League decision yesterday before 3,585 fans at Alumni Hall.
In the end, Navy (20-5, 9-1 league) simply had too many forces for the outmanned Crusaders, who have been riddled by injuries and inexperience (no senior starters). Trailing 41-36 with 10: 49 left in the game, the Midshipmen reeled off 16 straight points to clinch their third 20-win season in the past four years.
"Holy Cross played a smart basketball game," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "We didn't get many shots inside. They're a strong bunch of guys. If someone had told me beforehand that Sitapha Savane would get one free throw and we'd be out-rebounded by 16, I'd have said there was no chance we could win the game."
Holy Cross (9-16, 2-8), with only six scorers, limited its rotation to seven players in an attempt to combat Navy's waves. But a combination of factors meshed to foil the upset bid.
First, 7-foot-1 center Josh Sankes -- who had been in early foul trouble during Navy's Jan. 23 victory at Holy Cross -- picked up his third and fourth personals while his team was playing offense. From that point (14: 39 left in the game), he was either on the bench or forced to play more timidly than earlier.
That development sent Navy into a force-the-ball-inside mode that began to pay dividends. And, the Crusaders began to hit the wall as a result of playing too few people. During their crucial stretch, they went 0-for-8 from the floor and committed five turnovers while Navy started to draw away.
"The second half we made a point of pounding the ball inside," said Navy's Chris Williams, who led all scorers with 16 points and his team with nine rebounds. "We wanted to force the refs to call fouls on them in a very physical game."
The key basket of the Mids' streak came from an unlikely source, point guard Reggie Skipworth. Scoreless to that juncture, Skipworth drained Navy's first three-pointer for a 46-41 lead, and subsequent buckets by John Williams and Chris Williams established firm command.
"We've got enough scorers out there, so I kind of pick and choose my spots," Skipworth said. "If we're getting the job done inside, you won't see me shooting much."
It was the 10th straight victory for Navy and 15th in its past 16 games during the final regular-season appearance at home by seniors Savane and Jeremy Toton. The 15th consecutive Alumni Hall win is a team record.
Savane was restricted to nine points and five rebounds as he and Sankes neutralized each other. But the third-leading shot blocker in the nation rejected seven attempts by the Crusaders.
During the post-game salute to the seniors, the Senegal native told the crowd, "I guarantee you guys, this is not going to be our last home game," referring to the league's tournament championship game, which goes to the higher seeded team.
HOLY CROSS -- Szatko 3-11 3-7 11, Pegues 6-15 2-3 14, Sankes 2-8 4-9 8, Wilson 2-7 0-0 4, Serravalle 3-9 3-4 9, Spitler 0-1 0-0 0, Sanchez 2-4 1-2 5. Totals 18-55 13-25 51.
NAVY -- C. Williams 6-16 4-12 16, Reeder 1-5 4-4 6, Savane 4-11 1-1 9, Skipworth 1-2 2-4 5, Toton 1-3 0-0 2, J. Williams 2-4 0-0 4, Worthing 0-0 0-0 0, Jeanpierre 2-3 4-6 8, Shepard 0-0 0-0 0, Cunningham 0-1 0-0 0, Hill 0-0 0-0 0, Barker 1-3 0-0 2, Long 1-1 4-5 6. Totals 19-49 19-32 58.
Halftime--Holy Cross, 28-24. 3-point goals--HC 2-7 (Szatko 2-4, Wilson 0-1, Serravalle 0-1); Navy 1-9 (Skipworth 1-1, J. Williams 0-1, Barker 0-2, C. Williams 0-4). Fouled out--Pegues, Reeder. Rebounds--HC 49 (Szatko, Pegues, Sanchez 10); Navy 33 (C. Williams 9). Assists--HC 7 (Sanchez 3); Navy 15 (Reeder, J. Williams, Jeanpierre 3). Total fouls--HC 23, Navy 21. A--3,585.
Pub Date: 2/20/00