Hi, I’m Andy. You might remember me from such blog posts as “JV vs. Naps” and “JV vs. Hargrave.” Tonight I want to talk to you about something a little different – Women’s Basketball. Specifically, the Patriot League Championship game that happened tonight in Alumni Hall. As you may have heard by now, the Navy women won their 2nd consecutive championship behind a trio of sophomore stars, headlined by tourney MVP Jade Geif (her 2nd tourney MVP in a row).
The atmosphere in Alumni Hall was great, especially when you consider that most of the Brigade left town last night for spring break. There was a section full of restrictees (wear it proud, ladies and gents – I still have my tape ball from a 30-day stint after spring break my Firstie year), and a pep band consisting of members of the USNA band and the D&B. The latter ended up being a great group, belting out chant after chant when they weren’t blasting out some (slightly off tune) Lady Gaga. I’d say there were north of 1,500 people present by the start of the 2nd half, and would be shocked if any left before the final buzzer.
I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t overly psyched to go to a women’s basketball game. I grew up on Tobacco Road, so roundball is in my blood. Hell, I didn’t even watch a college football game until my plebe year. The few times I watched a women’s game, I was left wanting. It was usually more of a “support the school” thing, not a “I want to watch a women’s basketball game” thing. And for the first 10 minutes, it couldn’t have been any less appealing. After scoring on their first possession, Navy only got 4 points (2 from the stripe) in the next 10 minutes. But Holy Cross only managed 11 points in that time. Yes, it was as ugly as it reads. Holy Cross eventually built out to a 7-point halftime lead and there was little enthusiasm in the crowd.
Many people will read the box score and assume halftime adjustments in the locker room were the reason for Navy’s dominating 2nd half performance. Others might point to a more tightly called game that saw Holy Cross commit 14 fouls in the 2nd half. But I think the spark came from the halftime entertainment. There was a team of kids from a local rec league that put on a scrimmage. The gold team was led by a 2-foot nothing point guard who is destined to be on the next And-1 mix tape. I saw him cross up a kid at the top of the key and drive the lane for a layup, make no look dishes to teammates, and even split a guy with a dribble. That’s to say he put the all down one side of a guy, ran around the other side and picked the dribble up behind him. The crowd started cheering on the kid as he unleashed a torrent of highlight-worthy moves.
By the time the Navy women came out with just minutes to go before the horn – those adjustments must have been wordy – the crowd was a little more bouncy and ready to see some better basketball (though seeing Louisville and Cincinnati sitting at 26-14 in the 2nd half of the Big East championship game, who can complain). The Navy women did not disappoint. The 7 point lead disappeared in a matter of minutes as Navy opened on a 9-2 run and never really looked back. MVP Geif hit a layup with 12 minutes to go to give Navy a 38-37 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
And by the time Navy got the lead for good, I had started to lose my voice. Two days ago when I asked my wife and my parents if they were interested in going to the game, I looked it as solely a nice starting point to my return to the blog. You know, be the local guy who gets to some games other than football or men’s lacrosse. But by the end of tonight, I was standing on my feet with more than a thousand other Navy fans, cheering on Navy. It wasn’t just fun – it was exciting, emotional, and exhilarating. We stuck around for the trophy presentation, after which the girls did a cheer thanking the fans in attendance, and watched each of the players and coaches climb the ladder to cut the nets down. We’ll be adding another banner in Alumni hall this year – something that’s been rare since the late 90’s.
In the end, I had a great time tonight. The crowd was different from a football game. There wasn’t the massive contingent of old grads who seem to exist solely to make life miserable for other fans. I was able to stand up to take a picture or cheer a play and not once did I get told to get down in front. Even though we were able to get tickets for just a fraction of what a football ticket and parking will run you, the game’s fans seemed to care more and even know more. There was no groaning about timeouts or demands to get the ball more to the forwards. Just pure support and enthusiasm. And that’s the reason why I’ll be sure to go to more Navy Women’s Basketball games in the future. I’m not a convert just yet, but I’m chasing down the bandwagon.