Army (25-7) earned its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2006. That season rookie coach Maggie Dixon took the Black Knights to their first NCAAs. Dixon died a month later of arrhythmia, probably caused by an enlarged heart. Coach Dave Magarity was an assistant on that team and took over the program after Dixon died.
With the victory, Magarity became the second coach to lead both a men's and women's team to the NCAA tournament according to STATS. Magarity helped guide the Marist men's program to the NCAAs in 1988. Bill Morris accomplished the feat at La Salle taking both genders to the NCAA tournament.
Brisje Malone and Alex Smith each scored 16 points to lead Holy Cross (20-12).
Holy Cross, which upset top-seeded Navy to get to the championship game, had a difficult season. Head coach Bill Gibbons was on paid adminstrative leave for three months after a former Holy Cross player filed a civil suit against him right before the start of the season, alleging that he physically and verbally abused her. The veteran coach, who has been at the school for 29 years, was reinstated in early January and his first game was against Army, which the Crusaders lost. Minato had a school record 49 points in that game.
On Saturday night she was nearly as unstoppable. The guard scored 17 points in the first half as Army built a 33-26 lead. The Black Knights led 23-15 before Holy Cross scored seven straight to close within one. The Crusaders had a chance to tie it, but Lisa Mifsud couldn't complete a three-point play.
Army then closed the half scoring 10 of the final 14 points, including five by Minato, who earned tournament MVP honors.
The Crusaders got to 38-32 early in the second half, but Army responded scoring 10 of the next 11. Holy Cross closed to 58-50 with 1:54 left, but Minato's three-point play sealed the win.
Holy Cross, which has won 11 Patriot tournament titles, was looking for its first trip to the NCAAs since 2007. The Crusaders lost by a point to Army in 2006 in the Patriot League title game that year.
The Black Knights advanced to the finals by beating American. Before that game, the team watched a video of the 2006 championship which included interviews and well wishes with players from that squad who are currently stationed in around the world, including Afghanistan.
"It was a really powerful video," Magarity said. "I'm glad I didn't watch it with them because I broke down seeing it the first time."
Army women a lock for the NCAA!
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