Navy blows out Holy Cross, denies Crusaders NCAA berth

Kara Pollinger tied a career high with 24 points, Chloe Stapleton added 19, and Navy won its third straight Patriot League title by defeating Holy Cross, 72-53, Saturday night in Annapolis, Md.

The victory comes with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Navy (21-11) is the second team to win three consecutive Patriot League championships; the Crusaders captured four in a row from 1998-2001.

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Navy does not have a senior on the roster. The second-seeded Midshipmen beat Holy Cross by 13 and 24 points during the regular season.

‘‘Before the game our players felt genuinely confident, and they brought that out onto the court,’’ coach Stefanie Pemper said. ‘‘It was just a real mature effort by the women on our team.’’

Brisje Malone scored 17 for the fourth-seeded Crusaders (18-14), who went 4 for 20 from 3-point range.

‘‘Four for 20 isn’t going to win you many games,’’ Holy Cross coach Bill Gibbons said. ‘‘We lost to a better basketball team. I’ve got to credit Navy. I thought they played terrific. Sometimes, you’ve just got to tip your hat.’’

Holy Cross closed to within 39-33 with 14:26 to go in the game, but successive 3-pointers by Stapleton and Pollinger upped the margin to 12 and ended any hope the Crusaders had of mounting a comeback.

‘‘That was a key,’’ Gibbons said. ‘‘Those two threes were a dagger.’’

America East final — Tournament most valuable player Megan Craig had 16 points and seven rebounds, Shereesha Richards and Lindsey Lowrie added 12 points apiece, and top-seeded Albany rallied past visiting Hartford, 61-52, to win its second straight conference title.

The Great Danes (27-3), regular-season champions for the first time in program history, ended the regular season as the lone undefeated team in league play at 16-0. They’ve won 28 straight games against America East opponents, including the postseason.

Nikkia Smith’s 18 points led the Hawks (21-11), who were seeking their sixth America East title.

Atlantic 10 final — Natasha Cloud scored 15 points to help Saint Joseph’s rally to beat Fordham, 47-46, in New York, earning the Hawks (23-8) their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2000. Marah Strickland scored 16 points to lead the Rams (24-8).

Mid-American final — In Cleveland, Crystal Bradford scored 13 points with 10 rebounds and Central Michigan (21-11) beat Akron, 86-68, for its first conference title and NCAA berth since 1984. Hanna Luburgh scored 19 to lead the Zips (23-9).

Conference USA final — Taleya Mayberry scored 25 points and Tulsa (17-16) went over .500 for the first time this season with a 75-66 win over visiting Central Florida (16-18), earning its second NCAA Tournament berth.

Mountain West final — Ki-Ki Moore finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Fresno State (24-8) held off top-seeded San Diego State (26-6) for a 76-70 win in Las Vegas and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Western Athletic final — Stacey Barr had 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead Idaho (17-15) to a 67-64 upset of top-seeded Seattle (20-10) in Las Vegas.

MEAC final — Olivia Allen scored 16 points and Hampton (28-5) finished an unbeaten season in conference play with a 59-38 victory against Howard in Norfolk, Va., the Lady Pirates’ 19th straight victory. Kara Smith led Howard (20-11) with 12 points.

SWAC final — Kiara Etienne scored 31 points, Jeanette Jackson had 6 points in the fourth overtime, and Prairie View A&M (17-14) won its third straight conference tournament crown, beating Mississippi Valley State, 100-87, in Garland, Texas. Khristina Clemons scored 26 points for the Devilettes (17-15).

Big West final — Ariana Elegado scored 22 points, and Cal Poly (21-10) beat Pacific, 63-49, in Anaheim, Calif., to earn the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth. Gena Johnson scored 14 points for the Tigers (25-7), who dropped to 0-5 in Big West title games.

Big Sky final — Kenzie De Boer scored 19 points, and Montana (24-7) punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the 20th time with a 56-43 victory over Northern Colorado in Missoula, Mont.

Southland final — Kevi Luper scored 26 points and Oral Roberts (18-12) secured its first NCAA Tournament berth in five years with a 72-66 win over Sam Houston State in Katy, Texas.

NCAA Div. 2 second round — In Waltham, Lauren Battista and Jacqui Brugliera combined for 40 points and 10 rebounds and Bentley (29-1) built a 19-point halftime lead and rolled to an 85-56 win over Holy Family (28-2). The Falcons will meet Dowling in a third-round game Monday night . . . Stonehill’s Tori Faieta scored 15 points and Mary Louise Dixon added 14 but Dowling (26-3) dominated the second half and rolled to a 57-45 win. The Skyhawks (24-4) shot only 29.5 percent (18 of 61) from the field.

NCAA Div. 3 Final Four — Danny Rainer finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds and Williams (26-7) rallied in the second half to edge Amherst, 57-53, in the third-place game in Holland, Mich. Marcia Voigt scored 26 points to lead the Lord Jeffs (30-3). DePauw routed Wisconsin-Whitewater, 69-51, to win the championship.