Freshman breaks open game in the second half
ANNAPOLIS -- In each of the first two games of her college basketball career against Navy, Army freshman Kelsey Minato has played all 40 minutes. In the annual Star Game on Saturday, the 5-foot-8 point guard showed why she is so indispensable.
Scoring 19 points, collecting six rebounds and making several clutch plays in the second half, Minato propelled Army to a 48-40 victory at Alumni Hall as the Black Knights women completed their first sweep of Navy since 2007-08.
After Navy (15-10, 8-2) ran off six straight points midway through the second half to cut Army's lead to 28-24, Minato made two key plays with the shot clock about to expire. First she hit a 3-pointer with a defender in her face. As the clock wound down on the next possession, she drew a crowd but split defenders at the foul line and drew a foul.
"She's a special kid," Army coach Dave Magarity said. "She's got an incredible amount of poise and composure for a freshman, along with an incredible feel for the game."
Two possessions later, when Minato drained another 3-pointer, it put Army back in command 37-26. After that, Navy got no closer than six points.
Minato wasn't the only freshman standout for Army (19-6, 8-2). Aimee Oertner (four points, seven rebounds), the tallest player on either team at 6-2, limited two-time Patriot League tournament MVP Jade Geif to 12 points and 11 rebounds. Oertner led a defense that hounded the Mids into 28.3 percent shooting overall and 13.6 percent from beyond the arc (3-for-22). Navy junior Audrey Bauer made only one of 10 shots.
Despite its shooting woes, Navy stayed close for a half. A 3-pointer after intermission by junior Kara Pollinger (nine points, three assists) gave the Mids an 18-17 lead. But Minato answered with a 3-pointer and senior Anna Simmers (15 points) hit two more as Army went on an 11-0 run.
Navy coach Stefanie Pemper won six of her first eight games against Army, but that was before the arrival of Minato.
"She's just really smart and obviously a scorer and competitor," Pemper said. "That's obviously done a lot for them."