UPPER MARLBORO - One of the toughest things to accomplish in college basketball is to beat a team with roughly equivalent ability for the third time in the same season.
Somehow, Bucknell managed to achieve that feat yesterday with the aid of a massive edge at the foul line, rallying from 13 points in the final five minutes of regulation to eliminate Navy from the Patriot League women's tournament, 79-69, in overtime at Show Place Arena.
In their 12th straight victory over Navy, the Bison advanced to tomorrow's semifinals against top seed Holy Cross, which handled Lafayette in the other afternoon quarterfinal.
Bucknell (13-14) overcame an impressive three-point effort by the Midshipmen (tournament-record 13, including an individual tournament-record seven by Maile Shimoda) to dominate foul-ridden Navy in the extra period.
Three-time Patriot League Player of the Year Molly Creamer scored 36 points - half of them on free throws - and drilled a three-pointer with three seconds remaining that forced overtime after teammate Desire Almind had rebounded a missed three-pointer by Kate Franks.
"I was praying and didn't see it," Navy coach Joe Sanchez said of the tying shot. "All I know is if we had gotten that rebound, case closed. We gave them new life."
But Creamer had just seven first-half points and didn't get going until the second half. It was Almind who was primarily responsible for keeping Bucknell close (35-31) at halftime.
"I felt kind of scrawny against them," said the Bison's 6-foot junior forward, who had 23 points and a single-game tourney record 19 rebounds. "I kind of hesitated after Franks missed that shot, then got after it."
Navy, which finished with a 16-12 record and did not reach the semifinals for the fourth straight time, started strong from beyond the arc until 7 1/2 minutes remained following two straight three-pointers by Shimoda (26 points) that put the Bison behind 61-47.
Although Creamer's constant drives to the basket were cutting into the lead at times, Navy still led 67-58 with 2:04 to go.
Navy then committed two shot-clock violations and Lisa Steinmetz and Bryanna Herring (Wilde Lake) both fouled out while Creamer and Almind cut the lead to five.
Then - with 1:07 left to play - Navy star Courtney Davidson committed her fifth foul 90 feet from the opposing basket and left the game.
"It was pure stupidity," said the first-team Patriot League and Academic All-America player. "It was just me being ignorant and stupid. We wanted to play smart and we didn't."
The Midshipmen had a 68-62 lead before a three-point play by Creamer with 54 seconds left cut it to three and Navy followed with another shot-clock violation.
"For 35 minutes, we did everything we worked on all week," said Sanchez. "I wish we could have finished with what we started with. I'm very disappointed with their 47 free throws to 15. That is completely out of line."
NAVY - Roseti 2-9 2-4 6, Shimoda 9-15 1-2 26, Davidson 3-7 1-2 9, Steinmetz 0-2 0-0 0, Luchsinger 2-10 0-0 6, Davis 1-2 1-2 3, Pelzek 0-1 0-0 0, Campbell 3-8 0-0 8, Maslowski 0-2 1-2 1, Curtis 0-1 0-0 0, Herring 4-10 2-3 10. Totals 24-67 8-15 69. BUCKNELL - Almind 8-15 7-7 23, Ketcham 0-2 2-2 2, Geosits 1-5 0-2 3, Creamer 8-23 18-22 36, Franks 2-12 5-6 10, Hatalsky 0-2 0-0 0, Hettler 0-2 0-2 0, Ruth 1-3 3-6 5. Totals 20-64 35-47 79. Half - Navy, 35-31. End of regulation - 68-68. 3-point goals - Navy 13-27 (Roseti 0-2, Shimoda 7-10, Davidson 2-4, Luchsinger 2-4, Pelzek 0-1, Campbell 2-6), Bucknell 4-22 (Almind 0-1, Geosits 1-4, Creamer 2-7, Franks 1-8, Hatalsky 0-2). Rebounds - Navy 47 (Roseti 10), Bucknell 49 (Almind 19). Assists - Navy 17 (Shimoda 10), Bucjnell 15 (Creamer 5). A- n/a.