It certainly didn't have the atmosphere of a typical Army-Navy women's basketball game, being as it was held on a neutral court in front of a sparse crowd.
Host Bucknell had beaten American about 45 minutes earlier and the partisan fans that packed Sojka Pavilion for that opening semifinal had cleared out.
Navy didn't need the usual noise and raucous audience, bringing its own energy and intensity from the outset.
Senior guard Sarita Condie scored a career-high 26 points and made a miraculous game-winning shot as Navy held off Army, 54-53, in semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament on Friday night.
Condie calmly drained a 3-pointer from the left corner with five-tenths of a second remaining as the Midshipmen moved into the championship game for the first time since 2013. Second-seeded Navy (23-8), which won three straight Patriot League Tournament titles from 2011 through 2013, will take on top-seeded Bucknell (26-5) in Sunday's (11 a.m.) final.
"Really exciting. Sarita made a great, great shot," Navy head coach Stefanie Pemper said. "It looked good the whole time when she released it."
Condie's winning shot came after wild sequence in the final minute. Junior guard Hannah Fenske had missed a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left, but Condie snagged the offensive rebound. Senior forward Justice Swett then missed a layup with nine seconds to go, but Condie came up with the rebound again.
Condie tried to pass the ball back outside to Fenske, but an Army defender deflected the pass. Fenske then made a terrific hustle play by leaping to save the ball from going out of bounds and passing to Condie in the same motion.
Condie had her feet set and her eyes focused firmly on the basket as she launched a high-arcing shot that hit nothing but net and sent the Navy bench into a frenzy.
"After Justice missed that layup I glanced up at the clock for a moment and saw there was a lot less time than I thought," Condie said. "I saw two people trying to trap Hannah. Somehow, she got me a really good pass."
It was the first game-winning shot in a buzzer-beating situation for Condie, who was asked how it felt to beat archrival Army in such a manner.
"Personally, it would have been a lot nicer if we had kept our lead," she said.
Officials reviewed the tape to determine how much time remained and wound up putting five-tenths of a second on the clock. That gave Army a chance to catch and shoot, but Janae McNeal's inbound pass was deflected by Navy forward Kaila Clark and went out of bounds as the buzzer sounded.
"It's just heartbreaking for our kids," Army head coach Dave Magarity said. "That last possession was a nightmare. We couldn't end it with a rebound. We just didn't grab the ball. The way Condie got that shot was unbelievable. I wasn't surprised she made it because she's made big plays all season. Just a really, really tough way to lose."
Condie made 10 of 15 field goals, including all five that she attempted from 3-point range, in surpassing her previous career-high by four points. Fenske made three shots from beyond the arc in scoring 11 points and also added four steals and three assists for the Mids, who beat the Black Knights three times in the same season for the first time since 1996.
"It would have been nice for us to get a little revenge for those first two losses," Magarity bemoaned.
Clark, a 5-foot-11 freshman from Archbishop Spalding, scored eight points and pulled down 11 rebounds for Navy.
Sophomore forward Madison Hovren notched a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds for third-seeded Army (22-9), which did not take its first lead until the final three minutes of the contest. Junior forward Aliyah Murray also had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Black Knights, who trailed by as much as 12 points in the first half.
"We certainly did not come out very sharp. We played very tentatively and that first half couldn't have ended fast enough," Magarity said. "We started to settle down and play smarter in the second half. All of a sudden, we started doing things better on both ends."
Condie could not be stopped in the first half, scoring 18 points on 7-for-11 field goal shooting to propel Navy to a 35-26 advantage. Condie canned three 3-pointers in the half and took the ball to the bucket with authority — scoring eight of her points on driving layups.
Fenske knocked down both shots she attempted from beyond the arc in scoring eight points for the Midshipmen, who led by 12 points late in the first quarter.
Junior guard Janane McNeal scored seven points for Army, which shot 32 percent (9-28) from the floor and committed eight turnovers in the first half. Hovren and Murray had six points apiece for the Black Knights, who got within four points early in the second quarter then promptly allowed a 7-0 run.
Condie made a three while Fenske scored on a driving layup as Navy capitalized on a drought that saw Army suffer five straight empty possessions — missing five shots and committing two turnovers during that stretch.
Swett, Navy's defensive stopper, sat out most of the first half after suffering a cut below the right eye in a collision with an Army player. Swett was taken to the locker room and needed five stitches to close the wound.
The Mids have struggled mightily in the third quarter all season and that nemesis showed up again on this night. Clark scored off a nice up-and-under move to give Navy a 40-29 lead at the 5:52 mark of the period, but then the offense went stagnant.
Navy went seven possessions and more than five minutes without scoring, allowing Army to creep back into the contest. Lena Hicks, a 6-foot-4 sophomore center, scored off a post move and a short jumper in the lane to lead an 8-0 run by the Black Knights that cut the lead to three.
As was the case all game, the Mids responded — holding the Black Knights scoreless over the final 2:04 of the frame and scoring the final basket off a fastbreak. Condie made a terrific bounce pass to Clark for a left-handed layup that made it 42-37 going into the fourth quarter.
Swett used a nice ball fake to score in the lane to give Navy a 46-39 advantage early in the fourth quarter. However, the Midshipmen went into another offensive funk and watched the Black Knights steadily chip away.
"We were just so stymied offensively and Army made some big shots to get some momentum," Pemper said.
Junior guard Destinee Morris drained a 3-pointer from the corner at the 2:57 mark to give Army its first lead of the game, 49-48. It was no surprise that Condie was the one who responded, swishing a trey from almost the same spot as the game-winner to put Navy back ahead by two.
McNeal used a nice spin move to get open and made a tough runner in the lane to tie the score at 51 with just over two minutes left. Fenske missed two free throws while Condie and Dunham both could not convert interior attempts as the Midshipmen came up empty on the other end.