Being an Army-Navy basketball game, the game was going to be a fun one, regardless of the score.
However, Army and Navy did their viewers one better.
The Black Knights and the Midshipmen battled through two halves of basketball but found themselves knotted at 59-59 through regulation. As if yet another Army-Navy installment wasn't already fun enough, the game became an instant classic. Fans sitting on the edge of their seats watched as the rivals played through one overtime, and then a second overtime.
Finally though, the game came to an end, as all good things must, and, thanks to the last second tip-in by Kevin Ferguson, it was Army fans that walked away happy, after the thrilling 80-78 victory in front of Navy's home crowd.
Not only was it a huge win for Army in regards to their standing in the Patriot League, but it was sweet redemption for the loss they received at the hands of the Midshipmen nineteen days ago.
On February 1st, Navy visited Army and walked away with a 64-50 win. Saturday's game was Army's chance to redeem themselves, as well as a chance to avoid a season sweep by the Midshipmen for the second straight year. The win for Army was their first over Navy since January 11, 2014.
Slow Start Offensively For Both Squads
Initially, the game looked like a sleeper, as both squads stumbled out of the gate, missing each of their first few shots. Army started the afternoon 0-3 from the field, while Navy missed their first two shots. Ferguson finally got the first points of the game with a layup, 2 minutes and 29 seconds into the game. The score went back and forth, as neither team could get a series of scores to pull away in the early stages of the game. Navy took the first two-possession lead on a Tilman Dunbar jumper for a 10-6 lead with 12:43 to play in the first half, but Army came roaring back.
On their very next possession, the Black Knights fed the ball to Dylan Cox who poured in a three-pointer to cut the deficit to one point. Army took a brief lead just over the midway mark of the first half, going up 13-12 courtesy of a Ferguson layup. However, after Navy retook the lead 48 seconds later, Army would not go ahead for another 31 minutes and 53 seconds of game clock time.
Navy went on a brief run of seven straight points to open up a 19-13 lead, keyed by a trey from Kendall Knorr. Army came back but wouldn't tie the game until Tanner Plomb finished a Army spurt with a big dunk that tied the game up at 21 points apiece with 1:38 left in the half. Navy retook the lead, but Army beat the buzzer with a jumper to tie up the low-scoring game heading into the locker room.
Navy Opens Up Double-Digit Lead
The Midshipmen came out hot in the second half, scoring the first six points, the run finished by a Will Kelly dunk that sent the home crowd to their feet. However, Army, as they did all night long, got back into it with a three pointer, this one from Plomb. Army shot a stellar 41 percent from beyond the arc, compared to a woeful 12 percent by Navy. Army would close within one, but then allowed another Navy run.
The Midshipmen broke off eight straight points, led by a pair of jumpers from Jace Hogan, who came off the bench for a huge 16 point and 8 rebound performance for Navy. Army got one basket, but Navy followed up with two more for a 41-30 lead.
At the pace that Army's offense had been going, it seemed insurmountable. Navy wasn't quite done yet, as they went on to expand their lead to as much as 13 points, leading 47-34 with 8 minutes remaining.
Army Begins Their Comeback
Despite their sluggish offense for most of the game, Army finally managed to get back into it, thanks to their sharp three-point shooting. Plomb started the rally with a trey that cut the deficit to ten points, before Jordan Fox sunk one from beyond the arc and suddenly it was just 47-40. The squads traded baskets, and then Plomb drilled another three-pointer and it was just 49-45.
If there was one team that could come back from 13 points down with just eight minutes left, it was this hot three point-shooting Army squad.
Navy got another layup, but this time it was Larry Toomey getting the trey for the Black Knights, bringing them within three points with 3:40 left.
However, Army could get no closer over the next few minutes and, with just sixty seconds left on the clock, the Black Knights were still down by three points.
Army Finishes Comeback With Last Minute Rally
Army took some time off the clock on their next possession, but that backfired when the Black Knights missed a three-point attempt and gave Navy back the ball with 41 seconds to go. Plomb committed a foul, giving Navy two free throws, which were converted by Shawn Anderson.
Army got a layup from Ferguson, but had to foul again on Navy's next possession. Dunbar swished both free throws and Navy's five-point lead was restored with 28 seconds left on the clock. It looked like Army's comeback would fall short, but the Black Knights had other thoughts. Plomb went down the court and quickly knocked down a three-pointer with 21 seconds left, bringing Army within two points.
That was critical, because, when Navy went just 1-2 on their next trip to the free throw line, Army was still within one possession at 59-56. They got the ball back with 18 seconds still on the clock and a chance to tie the game for the first time since halftime.
Army worked the ball around the perimeter, looking for an open shot. Their first open look came from Kyle Wilson who was 0-10 to that point in the game from the field. However, Wilson picked the right time to make a three, as he drained it from the left side of the court, knotting the score with 8 seconds left. Navy's buzzer beating attempt was to hard and the game went to overtime.
First Overtime Offers No Resolution
Much like the start of the game, both teams went cold to start the extra period, as neither team could make a bucket to save their life. Army missed a pair of layups and a jumper, while Navy committed several turnovers and produced sloppy shots. The Midshipmen got the first points of the 5-minute overtime with 3:21 left on a jump shot that gave them the lead back at 61-59.
The teams traded points, but Army eventually cut the deficit to one point at 63-62. Navy worked the ball to their star, Dunbar, on their next possession but Dunbar tossed a brick of a three-pointer, his shot bouncing hard and high off the back part of the rim and into the hands of the Army defense.
Finally, Army had the opportunity to retake the lead, and they did, with a layup and free throw by Ferguson. However, their lead lasted less than a minute before Navy knotted it up again. The Midshipmen would vault back into the lead, going up 70-67 with 42 seconds left, but they would again choke with the lead.
Kyle Wilson sunk his jump shot to make it a one-point game, and Army promptly broke up Navy's inbounds pass. Navy fouled Army on their layup attempt, resulting in the game-tying free throw. However, with 20 seconds left, Navy had a chance to run down the clock and then make a shot as time expired. However, Army played spectacular defense and forced a wild layup by Dunbar as he fell to the ground. The shot never came close and the game headed to a second overtime.
Army Controls 2nd Overtime; Sets Up Thrilling Finish
The 2nd overtime saw Army really take control for the first time all game. Ferguson made a layup early, and Wilson stroked another three-pointer for a 75-72 lead midway through the second overtime. Navy cut it to one point, but Wilson roared back with another three-pointer to make it a four-point game. It was the first time all game that the Black Knights led by more than one possession.
Navy did come back to tie the game once more at 78-78, after a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left. The free throws came courtesy of Plomb's fifth foul, leaving him a spectator for the final seconds of the game. Army had to manufacture their last score without their star player, but that didn't seem to be a problem.
The Black Knights drained the clock, ensuring that Navy would not have time to set up a play after their possession. With five seconds left, they drove to the hoop. Wilson's initial layup was off but Ferguson was there, leaping up to tip in the wild shot for the 80-78 lead with 0.7 seconds showing on the clock.
The Army bench erupted, as did the West Point faithful that had travelled to Navy to see the rivalry matchup.
Navy heaved a full-court pass but Army tipped it, allowing time to expire and giving the Black Knights an incredible win.
Army's Stars Beats Navy's Depth
Normally, it's the teams with the deeper bench that win long overtime games like this one, but Army overcame a bench that barely contributed during this game to top the Midshipmen. While Navy got 21 points off their bench, including 16 from Hogan, Army had 9. Navy had two players off their bench play at least 25 minutes of basketball, while four out of five Armys starters played at least 40 minutes, with only two bench players recording at least 10 minutes of playing time.
On the starting side, Navy showed depth, with a double-double from Will Kelly, while getting 20 points from Anderson and 16 from Dunbar. Meanwhile, Army had only two major scorers in Plomb and Ferguson, but their high-scoring games of 24 and 22 points respectively were enough to lift the Black Knights. Ferguson also pulled down 19 rebounds. Wilson did get 11 points for Army, but the first of those points came on his game-tying trey at the end of regulation, so he was a non-factor for most of this game.
So, despite the depth of the Midshipmen, Army had just enough firepower from their two stars to pull through, and give their seniors one last win over a hated Navy squad.