The American University women's basketball team held a 12-point halftime lead, but Navy fired back with a strong second half to earn the 47-40 victory on Saturday night in the Patriot League Championship Game in Annapolis, Md.
American (22-9, 10-4 PL) got off to a red-hot start in the opening minutes with an Alexis Dobbs three-pointer on the game's opening possession. Nicole Ryan followed with a three the next time down the floor and Stephanie Anya then hit a jumper off the glass to give the Eagles a quick 8-0 lead two minutes into the game.
After a Navy (20-11, 10-4 PL) three-pointer, Ryan struck with another trey to open up an 11-3 advantage at the 17:03 mark. The Midshipmen responded with the next five points before another Ryan three pushed AU's advantage to 14-8 with 12:10 to go.
American's lead remained between four and six for the nearly the remainder of the half until a Liz Leer trifecta extended it to nine, 27-18, with 57 seconds left in the half. She followed with another three just before the halftime buzzer and the Eagles took a 30-18 advantage into intermission on the strength of 50 percent shooting (6-12) from beyond-the-arc.
The second half, however, began in totally the opposite fashion to how the opening 20 minutes played out as Navy began with the first five points, forcing AU into calling a timeout. After an Anya layup for AU to make the score 32-25, Navy scored the game's next nine points to take a 34-32 advantage with 13:21 to play.
But the Eagles refused to go away quietly, running off seven unanswered points on a Strack layup, an Ebony Edwards jumper and another Ryan three to push their lead to five, 39-34, with 8:44 to play.
Unfortunately for AU, Ryan's three was the Eagles' final made field goal of the game as the Mids scored the next 13 points, which included three clutch three-pointers, to put the game out of reach. Ashley Yencho converted a late free throw for AU as Navy earned the 47-40 victory to claim its first-ever Patriot League crown.
"Navy had kids that really stepped up and made some big plays," remarked Head Coach Matt Corkery. "I felt like we kind of weathered the storm after the first few minutes of the second half but the box score tells the story. We never really got anything going from an offensive standpoint in the second half and the shots that we did get didn't go down for us."
Ryan led AU with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting from three-point range. Leer added eight points and 10 boards. Both Ryan and Leer were selected to the Patriot League All-Tournament Team.
Jade Geif led the Mids with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Alix Membreno chipped in 10 points on three key three-pointers and was honored on the all-tournament team along with Angela Myers, who had seven points, five assists and four rebounds.
Navy outrebounded American, 37-26, and held the Eagles to 18.2 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes. Navy, meanwhile, registered a 47.6 percent clip from the floor in the second half, including 5-of-10 from three-point range.
For the Eagles, this marks the sixth-time in program history that they have reached their conference championship game, all of which have come up short. American has been in the Patriot League finals four times since joining the conference in 2001-02.
"I'm very, very proud of our team," added Corkery. "I'm extremely proud of Liz Leer, Ashley Yencho, Nicole Ryan -- our seniors -- and what they've done for our program. They can look back on some fantastic accomplishments and that's what I told them in the locker room."
The Eagles conclude the season with 22 victories, which is tied for the second-most in program history. The senior class will graduate as the winningest class in program history with an 81-45 record over the last four years, including a 43-13 mark in Patriot League play. AU has captured three of the last four Patriot League regular season titles and made three postseason appearances during the stretch.