A pair of plebes showed last night that, despite its current troubles, the future of Navy's basketball team looks bright.
The present, however, remains gray and dreary.
American defeated Navy, 64-61, at Alumni Hall, giving the Eagles a season sweep over the Mids for the second year in a row.
Senior guard Steven Miles scored 27 points to lead American, helping the Eagles overcome an excellent night by Navy freshman David Hooper, who scored 24 points, the most by a plebe since Michael Heary had 31 against Army in 1995.
Hooper's classmate, Matt Fannin, scored nine points and made several key plays in the closing minutes, but it wasn't enough to keep Navy (6-16, 2-7 Patriot League) from losing its third straight. The Mids, who were without leading scorer Scott Long (hip pointer), have now dropped eight of their past 10.
"I was proud of the way our young guys stepped up tonight," said Navy coach Don DeVoe. "They really had some confidence tonight and that's very encouraging. We just weren't able to sustain our momentum."
Turnovers, 18 of them, hampered the Mids all night, but Navy still had a chance thanks to Hooper, who hit six of nine three-pointers, including one with 42 seconds left to cut Navy's deficit to 62-61.
American guard Andres Rodriguez missed two free throws on the ensuing possession, but Navy lost its best chance to win when Hooper was called for an offensive foul (his fifth of the game) in front of Navy's bench at the other end with 13.5 seconds left.
Miles hit two free throws to put American up 64-61, and Navy senior Jason Jeanpierre missed a three-pointer as the final buzzer sounded.
"I didn't think it was a foul, but that's how the game goes," Hooper said. "If they were wrong, they were wrong, but you can't do anything about it."
Said American coach Jeff Jones: "Quite honestly, that's not a call you expect to get in that situation, but we'll take it."
DeVoe was uncharacteristically emotional after the loss, expressing pride in the play of his two freshmen, while at the same time venting about the difficulties Fannin and Hooper have faced as plebes at the academy.
"I'll tell you, it's impossible to go through what these guys go through in the plebe system," DeVoe said. "When you see what they're doing out there, you should stand up and applaud because it's impossible to play college basketball and deal with the stuff they deal with. ... I've had very few plebes play for me at Navy, but these guys showed how hard they've been working tonight."