Women’s basketball claims Patriot League title with overtime win over Navy

Doug Hendry, Senior Editor

Bison to face Maryland in NCAA Tournament

The ecstatic faces of the players pig-piled on the Bison logo at center court of the March 12 Patriot League Championship game told the story. Despite finishing the regular season with a 16-2 conference record and first-place finish in the Patriot League, the Bison were not going to be satisfied without winning the Patriot League Tournament.

And with a 79-71 victory over Navy in overtime at Sojka Pavilion, the Orange and Blue achieved just that.

Triumphing in the Patriot League Championship for the first time since 2008, the Bison, led by head coach Aaron Roussell, left it all on the court as they defeated Navy to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The leading scorer was Patriot League Player of the Year Claire DeBoer ’17, who scored a season-high 30 points on 9-14 shooting, including 5-6 from 3-point range and 7-8 on free throws. DeBoer added 10 rebounds for her eighth double-double of the season.

Suné Swart ’17 scored 15 points and Kate Walker ’19 added 14 points, while both shot at least 50 percent from the field. DeBoer, Swart, and Walker combined for 21 of the 26 made field goals on the day for the Bison.

For Roussell, this victory highlights the turnaround that he has helped with this program since taking over for the 2012-13 season. Prior to his arrival, the Orange and Blue went 5-25. In Roussell’s five years with the team, the program has won a total of 101 games, the highlight of which was this year’s 27-5 record and conference championship.

Still, the title was no sure thing, as Navy had jumped out to an early 15-4 lead to start Sunday’s championship.

The Bison managed to fight back into the game, with Walker scoring from long range to tie the game at 19-19 at the beginning of the second quarter. Swart added a bucket moments later to give the Bison their first lead of the game.

Navy would not give up easily as it used another run to put the pressure on its opponents, finishing the first half with a 37-33 lead.

Going into the locker room with a deficit was not an all-too-familiar feeling for the Bison, but the break seemed to spark new life in them, starting with the conference’s Player of the Year.

DeBoer opened the second half with five straight points for the Bison, who managed to increase their lead to seven points early in the fourth quarter. Still, Navy scored in flashes, using an 11-1 run to grab a lead of 63-60 with under six minutes to go in the game.

Down the stretch, the Orange and Blue sunk five free throws in the final three minutes to go up three, but Navy hit a 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining to tie the game up at 67-67. Failing to get a shot off at the buzzer, the teams were going into overtime.

“Our team battled the whole entire game and knew that each possession would be worth the result,” team captain Megan McGurk ’17 said.

For just the second time in Patriot League history, the championship would be decided in the extra period. With the entire season and an automatic bid on the line, the Bison defense locked in, limiting Navy to just four points in those final five minutes.

Offensively, Walker opened with a layup and the team never looked back, outscoring Navy 12-4 to earn the Patriot League title.

Navy was one of the few teams to defeat the Bison in the regular season, but were unable to when it mattered most, as the Bison improved to 27-5 with the win. It was the 28th consecutive home victory for the Bison, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind No. 1 Connecticut.

The sweet celebration will surely stay with the team for years to come, but it knows that the season is not over yet. On March 13, the Bison learned their fate in the NCAA Tournament.

After earning a No. 14 seed, the Bison will travel to College Park, Md. to take on Big Ten champions and No. 3 seed Maryland in the round of 64 on Friday, March 17.

“Maryland will be a very tough competitor but our team is heating up at the right time, so I like our chances,” McGurk said.

It will be the first NCAA Tournament appearance for the squad since falling to North Carolina in 2008.

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