Kings Point, NY – The United States Merchant Marine Academy Mariners (10-12, 2-10 Landmark) topped the Eagles of Juniata College (16-7, 7-5 Landmark) for the first time in academy history, Saturday afternoon in Kings Point, NY.
A jumper by senior captain Roshenda Josephs (Culpeper, VA) opened the scoring for the Mariners as Merchant Marine jumped out in front of the Eagles early. USMMA took a 10 point lead in the first five minutes of the game, and would later open a 21-10 advantage, their largest of the contest, on a jumper by sophomore forward Rebecca Resor (Bay St. Louis, MS).
Despite not relinquishing the lead in the first half, the Mariners saw some of their momentum drained in the closing minutes as Juniata shrunk their deficit to one, scoring the final seven before the break.
A pair of free throws by senior captain Tamara Kaileh (Kings Park, NY) to start the second half seemed to turn the tide back in favor of the Mariners. Merchant Marine opened an eight point lead at the 15:08 mark on a free throw by junior forward Kristina Walz (Monona, IA), putting USMMA up 52-44.
Once again, the Eagles quickly chipped away at the Mariner advantage, closing the gap to 52-51 with 12:39 remaining in regulation. A Resor layup extended the Mariner lead to three, but a pair of free throws by Juniata sophomore forward Kelsey Livoti (Altoona, PA) and a jumper by freshman guard Paige Dennison (East Berlin, PA) put the Eagles in front for the first time in the contest.
The game looked to be slowly slipping away from Merchant Marine as the Eagles opened a 70-65 advantage, their largest of the game on a pair of free throws by freshman forward Natalie Hager (Franklin, PA) after an intentional foul was called on Kaileh as she attempted to break up an easy lay-in.
USMMA was able to force a turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass to gain possession. A Kaileh layup and two foul shots brought the Mariners within one and a clutch free throw by Resor in the game's final minutes put Merchant Marine ahead for good.
Juniata's desperation shot at tying the game as time expired fell short as Kings Point grabbed their second Landmark Conference victory of the season and their first ever victory over conference opponent Juniata.
USMMA was able to compete with the Eagles by shooting remarkably well from the charity stripe (24-31) and playing a disciplined possession game only committing half as many turnovers as the Eagles.
Kaileh scored a career-high 24 points, falling just shy of her second double-double of the season, grabbing nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Demi VanDerWal (Springfield, IL) also reached double-figures scoring 16 points and snatching a game-high five steals. Resor increased her team leading mark, tallying her seventh double-double of the year scoring 12 points and snagging 15 boards.
Junior forward Kate McDonald (Pennsylvania Furnace, PA) had a stellar game for the Eagles, tallying 21 points and 13 rebounds. Hager and Livoti also reached double figures notching 15 and 12 respectively.
The comeback marks the first time all season that Merchant Marine won a game after trailing at the 10:00 minute mark of the second half. The Mariners' 73 points was the highest scoring output for Kings Point against a Landmark Conference opponent this season.
Prior to the contest, USMMA celebrated "Senior Day" by honoring their two senior captains, Tamara Kaileh and Shendi Josephs for their four years of service, leadership, and dedication to the academy and the women's basketball program.
USMMA will be riding a three-game winning streak as they face service academy rival Coast Guard (8-12, 6-9 NEWMAC) in New London, CT Monday evening at 7:00 PM. The Mariners have defeated USCGA in three of their past four matchups, including a thrilling 64-60 victory last year in Kings Point.