Navy women’s basketball has played two games this season that have not enabled the coaching staff to accurately assess this young squad. Navy opened at home with a 41-point rout of Division III Susquehanna, then lost by 63 at Penn State.
Coach Tim Taylor knew a home game against Mount St. Mary’s would provide a much better gauge of Navy’s strengths and weaknesses.
Junior guard Jessica Tomasetti scored 19 points on the strength of 11–for-14 free throw shooting as Mount St. Mary’s rallied from a seven-point deficit to defeat Navy, 67-59, in overtime. Senior forward Isabella Hunt notched a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Mountaineers, who outscored the Midshipmen, 14-6, in the extra session.
Freshman combination guard Zanai Barnett-Gay, a freshman guard, scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Navy (1-2), which led for most of the second half. Plebe point guard Kyah Smith added 15 points for the Midshipmen, who made just 3 of 24 3-point attempts.
“We just didn’t execute at the end of the game. That comes back to me. I’ve got to have the players prepared for those situations. We probably should have gotten Zanai a few more shots down the stretch,” Taylor said.
Junior wing guard Jo Raflo made three triples and netted 11 points for the Mount (1-1), which went 21-for-27 from the charity stripe.
“It all starts with our defense. Since the summertime when we got this group together, we knew there would be some offensive challenges, which we’re still working through. Our defense has to be there for us at all times,” Mount St. Mary’s coach Antoine White said. “It has to be consistent and it has to travel on the road. I think we did a great job of defending tonight. We stayed the course and made some key adjustments. They locked into it and got some big stops.”
One thing that is obvious to Taylor through three games is that Barnett-Gay can really ball. The Riverdale Baptist product came into Wednesday’s contest averaging a double-double and only improved on those numbers with another impressive performance. She made 13 of 26 field goals and also contributed three assists and three steals.
“Zanai was phenomenal. You look at the numbers across the board and for a freshman … that’s pretty darn good,” Taylor said. “She innately plays hard all the time. That’s a trait that is really unique.”
Smith also plays with a lot of confidence and moxie, although she struggled shooting the ball Wednesday, going 4-for-16 from the field. She totaled 15 points and added six rebounds and four assists while playing all 45 minutes.
“Kyah never came out and she got tired toward the end. We probably should have taken her out,” Taylor said. “She’s been the quarterback of the team so I kept her in. That’s on me.”
Barnett-Gay and Smith both like pushing the ball up court and attacking the basket, sometimes forcing the action. Both plebes committed five turnovers Wednesday night, an issue the coaching staff will need to clean up.
Taylor is eager to see how they blend with Toni Papahronis, a dynamic sophomore guard who is also extremely skilled. Those three have the potential to form a very potent backcourt. Papahronis is still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the 2022-23 season opener with Taylor saying she is “very close” to being able to play in games.
Smith drained a 3-pointer off a fast break as Navy opened the third period with a 13-5 run to turn a 28-27 halftime deficit into a 40-33 lead. The Midshipmen, though, began to falter late in the third.
After Mount St. Mary’s got as close as one, Smith used a crossover dribble to get some open space then swished a pull-up jumper to give Navy a 53-49 advantage with just under two minutes to go.
However, the Midshipmen could not finish down the stretch.Senior forward Morganne Andrews made the mistake of fouling a 3-point shooter with four-tenths of a second left. Senior forward Isabella Hunt missed the first free throw attempt then made the next two to tie the score at 53 and force overtime.
“Isabella missed the first one pretty bad and I’m not going to lie that made me a little nervous,” White said. “She’s been here four years and I know what that kid is made of. It was no surprise that she stepped up and hit two big ones to send us into overtime.”
Navy’s offensive problems persisted in the extra session as it failed to score on six straight possessions. That enabled Mount St. Mary’s to steadily pull away with Tomasetti hitting a jumper and two free throws.
“We just couldn’t close it out. That’s a young team still trying to figure out how to get quality possessions at crunch time. I thought we threw away too many possessions,” Taylor said. “We can say young all we want, but ultimately you have to win games when you have a five-point lead late.”
Taylor acknowledged he learned a lot more about his team in this game than he did during the first two.
“We just need to be more disciplined. I don’t think we were disciplined with our shot selection or disciplined defensively,” Taylor said. “I felt as a young team they got deflated when the game went to overtime. It’s up to me to be able to lift them up in that situation.”
This marked the 30th meeting between the schools since the first during the 1977-78 season, the first in Navy women’s basketball history. Following a nine-year hiatus, the series resumed last season with the Mount winning 68-59 in Emmitsburg. The Mountaineers now lead the all-time series 21-9 after winning four of the last five.
“Navy is never an easy place to play. I’m very proud of my group for coming into a tough environment and stepping up to get the W,” White said.
The Mids continue a four-game homestand Tuesday night against Binghamton, then take on Abilene Christian and Quinnipiac in the Navy Classic Nov. 25-26