Army sinks Navy, 53-50

WEST POINT-- Inside a raucous Christl Arena, the Black Knights and Midshipmen put on an affair that will be remembered as one of the best contests in all Army-Navy basketball history. When it was over, Greg Sprink's potential game-tying 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer, and the Cadets advance to 3-2 in the Patriot League with a tough 53-50 victory.

Regardless of how both teams are in the standings, one thing that can be counted on is a fierce contest between the archrivals. In this case, both teams are obviously significantly improved over recent seasons' editions. At the start, both teams were feeling each other out like championship prize fighters. 6 minutes into the game, the score was only 6-2 Army. Marcus Nelson, who continues to wow the crowds with his athletic ability, followed a missed shot with a tip in to make it 8-2. Doug Williams, who may have been the MVP of the game, followed shortly thereafter with a thundering dunk off a pass from Nelson. Navy would not quit, though, and it took a nice move by Marshall Jackson with about 8 minutes left to make it 14-10 Army.

Navy then went on a 7-0 tear, led primarily by freshman TJ Topercer, to take a 17-14 lead. A nice 3-point goal from Matt Bell tied it, and a 15-ft jumper from Jarell Brown gave Army the lead. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the first half, with the Black Knights clinging to a slim 25-23 lead.

If there is a recent pattern, it is that Army seems to be playing rather well at the start of the second half. Sunday's match was no exception. Matt Bell sank another 3-pt field goal and Marcus Nelson fed Corban Bates for a nice layup to give Army a 34-25 lead with about 16 minutes left. Bell once again gave Navy fits by connecting on a traditional 3-pter, hitting his foul shot after a nice layup. This gave the Cadets a 37-27 lead, and the crowd was sensing a relatively easy Army victory.

Navy, however, was looking to give Army a run for their money. In fact, they went on a 11-0 run to take a 38-37 lead with less than 10 minutes left. From here, both teams really stepped up the defense, with both squads taking the 35-second clock to practically 0 (result of tough defense and deliberate offense).

It was nip and tuck for awhile. Then, Corban Bates hit probably the biggest shot in his career to now, a 3-pter from the corner to give Army a 47-43 lead. Navy began to send Army to the foul line, and it seems this strategy worked. Army missed several free throws down the stretch, and Navy closed it to 49-47 after being down 10 earlier in the half. Jarell Brown then hit a huge shot from the corner to make it 51-47. Army did manage a couple of free throws to make it 53-47 in the waning seconds. Greg Sprink then hit a long 3 to close the gap, and after another Army miss at the line, Navy came up with a good shot at the basket, but it would not fall, preserving the Black Knights' victory.

This is the best record the Black Knights within the Patriot League this late in the season since the 1990s. Could a postseason bid become a reality this year? Army now embarks on a tough 2-game road trip, facing a beatable Lafayette squad in Easton Wednesday night, and then going farther west in Pennsylvania, to face a tough Bucknell squad next Saturday. The next home game is on Saturday, Feb 3rd, where the Black Knights will be looking to avenge an opening night overtime loss to Colgate.


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