Women’s College Basketball
Navy Classic Championship Game
United States Naval Academy 75, Rider University 64
Johnson / Banks All-Tournament
ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Despite a career-high 20 points from sophomore Mikal Johnson, the Rider University women’s basketball team lost the title game of the 21st Navy Classic 75-64 on Saturday evening on Dave Smalley Court at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Maryland.
Playing only 71 miles from home in Manassas, Virginia (Osbourn High School), Johnson averaged 14.5 points for the weekend and was voted to the all-tournament team.
“Yesterday, it was Steph (Mason) and tonight it was Mikal,” said head coach Lynn Milligan. “That’s a nice combination for us to have and they help each other out. I was happy that Mikal got it going tonight.”
Trailing 38-37, Navy (6-2) went on an 11-0 run, taking a 48-38 lead with 15:55 left in the game, the sixth and final lead change of the contest.
“Defensively, we had some lapses when we were trying to get back in it,” Milligan said. “We didn’t score for a few possessions and they scored on five or six in a row and that was the difference. We didn’t make enough shots; that’s really what it came down to. I’m not unhappy with our effort at all.”
Navy opened the game on an 11-0 run in the first 3:11 of the game, five points by All-Patriot League First team honoree Jade Geif, as Rider missed its first 10 shots.
“We spotted Navy 11 but we recovered from that,” Milligan said. “Going into the half only down one, I thought we did a good job defensively after that first couple of minutes.”
Rider (2-5) responded with seven straight points, three from freshman Stephanie Mason (Jackson/Jackson Memorial), cutting the Midshipmen lead to four (11-7) with 12:55 remaining in the opening half.
One day after a career-high 15 points in Rider’s win over Maryland, Baltimore County, Mason finished with nine points and added five rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench.
After a three-pointer by Navy made the score 14-7, the Broncs scored six straight points, three points by Mason and two from senior MyNeshia McKenzie (Springfield, Pa./Springfield (Delco)), cutting the Midshipmen lead to 14-13 with 10:59 left in the first period.
McKenzie finished with 16 points, moving into 12th place on Rider’s all-time scoring list with 1,120 points. Already third on Rider’s all-time rebounding list, McKenzie also pulled down eight rebounds in the contest.
“MyNeshia wants so badly to score for her team,” Milligan said. “I think at times, she may have forced a shot or two but she wants to be a catalyst and we have some time to go over some film and maybe show her where a better option may have been. She is out there trying to score for her team and we are more successful when she does score so we are working out that balance.”
Leading 17-16, back to back three-pointers by Audrey Bauer extended Navy’s lead to 23-16, with 8:46 left before the half. Bauer finished with nine points and she had three of Navy’s 12 three-pointers in the contest.
Trailing 26-18, Rider again rallied, going on a 9-0 run to take a 27-26 lead with 3:14 left before halftime on the strength of four points from McKenzie and three points from junior Lashay Banks (Philadelphia, Pa./Prep Charter). Banks finished with 15 points in 32 minutes of play, also earning all-tournament honors.
Trailing by one, Navy scored six straight, re-taking the lead 32-27 with 2:10 before the half. Two free throws each by Banks and sophomore Manon Pellet (Marseille, France) cut the Midshipmen lead to 32-31 at the half. Rider opened the game eight for nine from the free throw line and made 18 free throws in the game.
Pellet finished with three points, four assists and three steals and more important to the Broncs, only committed one turnover in 26 minutes of play.
For the fourth game in a row, Rider had less than 10 turnovers, committing a season-low seven in the contest.
“We aren’t turning the ball over,” Milligan said. “That’s a good thing. We are running our offense, getting good looks and taking care of the ball. We just have to make more shots.”
Rider was out-rebounded 44-32 and the Midshipmen out-shot the Broncs 47 percent (25-53) to 32 percent (20-62). Navy shot 50 percent (12-24) from three-point range.
“We still need to do a better job, especially on the offensive glass,” Milligan said. “We ran our stuff, we got to the line, we just needed to make a make a few more shots and grab a few more rebounds. There are just some things we need to tighten up.”
Navy is the three-time defending Patriot League champions, having lost to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament in 2012-13.
“Navy is just too good and too experienced to give up easy baskets,” Milligan added. “We gave up too many threes in the opening half and over-helped a little in the second half.”
This is the second season in a row that Rider played for an in-season tournament title with the Broncs losing to Quinnipiac in the championship game of the Brown Bear Classic in 2012-13.
Navy and Rider have now met three times with the Midshipmen winning all three.
In the consolation game earlier on Saturday, Brown defeated UMBC 92-53.
After a break for final exams, Rider hosts Binghamton, Saturday, December 14 at 1 p.m., in Alumni Gymnasium.