ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Bucknell clinched the outright Patriot League women's basketball regular season title Saturday with a 63-54 over Navy at Alumni Hall. Fueled by a 24-6 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Bison erased a 19-point deficit on their way to a sixth straight win.
The Bison (23-5, 15-2 PL) have won back-to-back regular season titles after sharing the crown with Army West Point last season. It is the first time in program history that they have won consecutive regular season championships.
“Wow, what a game! A lot of heart and a lot of belief went into that comeback,” Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussell said after winning his second regular season championship and the program’s fourth. “A lot of it is still a blur, but what I remember is never feeling like we were out of it. We dug ourselves a big hole, but we knew the mistakes we made and knew they were correctable.
“It was a surreal feeling in those huddles,” Roussell continued. “We obviously didn’t like the spot we were in most of the night, but everyone was so positive and really believed we were going to win that game the whole time.”
Senior Megan McGurk had a terrific all-around game for Bucknell, scoring a season-high 14 points while matching a season-high with seven rebounds. Fellow senior Claire DeBoer finished with 15 points and five boards, while sophomore Kate Walker tallied 10 points and five rebounds.
Navy went up 33-14 on a jumper by Ashanti Kennedy with 3:22 to play in the second quarter. Bucknell did its part to give itself a chance by making an 8-0 run to end the half. Junior Catherine Romaine, sophomore Kaitlyn Slagus, DeBoer, and McGurk all had buckets, the final of which cut the deficit to 33-22 going into the break.
Bucknell only put a small dent in the deficit with a 17-15 edge in the third quarter, but then held Navy to 1-of-15 shooting in the fourth while making the big comeback.
The Bison slowly chipped into the Mids' lead in the fourth quarter before DeBoer hit five of six free throws over a span of 1:33 to give her team a 54-53 lead with 2:56 to play. Sophomore Kyi English added a three-point play on a drive and a free throw, and added another driving layup to complete a 10-0 run and put the Bison up 58-53 with just 1:33 left on the clock.
Bucknell’s defense took it from there, never allowing Navy to make it a one-possession game.
DeBoer scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, going 7-of-8 from the foul line. As a team, Bucknell was 12-of-15 from the stripe in the final quarter and went 16-of-22 for the game.
All eight of Bucknell’s players that saw the floor scored in the game. Slagus finished with six points and led the team with 10 rebounds, while Romaine was big off the bench with six points and three boards. Senior Sune Swart tallied six points and six rebounds, and freshman Gia Hayes contributed a free throw and dished out an assist.
“That was just an outstanding team win,” Roussell said. “We all made mistakes that we wish we could have back, but everyone made big plays to make that win happen. I’m so excited for our players and fans. Winning is hard and winning championships is exceptionally difficult, but this group went out and got it done.”
Bucknell will be the top seed in the Patriot League Tournament, while Navy (20-8, 13-4 PL) will be the second seed. The Bison will host a quarterfinal game against the winner of #8 Loyola and #9 Lehigh on Monday, March 6, at 6 p.m.