Army and Navy provided a thriller on Saturday before a packed house at West Point as Army won 69-63 in two overtimes and sang their "Alma Mater" second.
Games between the service academies are always special, so many years of history and tradition come into play. For days in advance the cheers of "Beat Navy" can be heard at West Point and "Beat Army" at Annapolis. At Army, where they are still remembering the football win by Navy in December, basketball is a chance for a measure of payback.
This is a matchup in which the records on the season can be thrown out. Army was 10-14 coming in under Zach Spiker and Navy a struggling 3-20 under first-year coach Ed DeChellis.
Both teams send their bands and cheerleaders to the game. Navy sent a delegation of midshipmen, and their parents association served a buffet to the Annapolis visitors across the street next to Michie Stadium. The women's basketball game started the day with a Navy win over Army.
The game began with each team playing very deliberate half-court ball. After 10 minutes of play, Navy led 5-4. A jumper and two free throws by sophomore Josh Herbert, and a three-point shot by junior Ella Ellis gave the Black Knights a 22-17 lead at the half.
Both teams struggled in the first half, each shooting 23.8 percent from the field. Navy was 1-of-11 on threes; Army was 2-of-3.
In the second half, Army went to an eight-point lead with 12:28 left on a three-point goal by Ella Ellis and two free throws by freshman Mo Williams.
Navy came back, making a 12-3 run to take a 40-39 lead with 7:55 left, topped by a jump shot by freshman Worth Smith. Army went ahead 45-44 with 4:23 left on a layup by freshman Maxwell Jenkins.
Navy sophomore Thurgood Wynn tied the game at 45 on the first of two free throws, and then missed the second with 1:45 left.
Both teams missed three point shots in the final eight seconds to send the game into overtime.
Christyl Arena was roaring as the game went into overtime. The bands were blasting at each other, the over 1,000 cadets on hand were cheering their team from behind both baskets and the top reaches of the tall stands. The crowd was announced at 5,189—an arena record.
In the first overtime, Navy went out to a 51-47 lead with 2:38 left, led by two layups by sophomore Isiah Roberts and a two-pointer by freshman Worth Smith. Navy held a three-point lead, 55-52, with 1:11 left after a layup by sophomore Brennan Wyatt. Then, Army cut the deficit to one on a Mo Williams layup with 55 seconds left.
Both teams then missed shots. With six seconds left and Army trailing by one, Army fouled to put Navy on the free-throw line. Isiah Roberts missed the first and made the second. With the crowd on its feet, Army went on a fast break.
Maxwell Lenox appeared to go for a layup, and then slammed it in.
Army tied the game, and the game went into the second overtime!
The Black Knights dominated the second overtime, going out to a seven-point lead 63-56 on a three-point shot and a foul shot by Josh Herbeck. Williams, Ellis and Josh Herbeck made free throws in the final 18 seconds of overtime as Army held on to a 69-63 win.
The final horn saw the Cadets storm the court—a rare scene at West Point. Then the Alma Mater began, first the Naval Academy's, and then the Army cadet band played the West Point Alma Mater.
Ken Kraetzer covers Army football and Iona basketball for WVOX 1460 AM and Sons of the American Legion Radio. His Twitter address is @SAL50NYRadio