New London, CT -- The United States Merchant Marine Academy Mariners (11-12, 2-10 LC) defeated their service academy rivals from the United States Coast Guard Academy (9-13, 7-9 NEWMAC) by a score of 62-53 Monday night in New London, CT.
The Mariners got off to a hot start once again, netting the game's first six points; four of them coming on a pair of jumpers from sophomore forward Rebecca Resor (Bay St. Louis, MS).
The Coast Guard Bears didn't waste any time erasing their deficit as they struck right back with five of their own to pull within one.
Once again, Merchant Marine took charge, capping another 6-0 run with a jumper by senior captain Roshenda Josephs (Culpeper, VA) giving Kings Point their largest lead of the first half (12-5).
Slowly, the Bears battled back, bringing the Mariner advantage back down to one at the 9:09 mark of the first half. Looking to provide her team a spark, sophomore forward Sara Ellenberger (Phoenix, AZ) checked into the game and immediately made an impact converting on a three-point play as she was fouled on a layup off an inbounds pass from junior forward Alexandra Winfree (Millstone, NJ).
Coast Guard kept clawing away and eventually took their first lead of the game (23-22) on a jumper by freshman guard Meghan Fornaro (Charlton, MA) with 4:09 left in the half. Merchant Marine would not see another lead in the first as a pair of free throws by Mariners' junior forward Kristina Walz (Monona, IA) would bring USMMA within two points of the Bears heading into the break.
Coast Guard scored the first four points of the second half before the Mariners would rally for seven straight to take the lead back once again (31-29) on an Ellenberger layup.
The contest looked as though it had the makings of an epic battle when Bears' sophomore forward Dani Knox (Centreville, VA) knocked down a jumper at the 7:06 mark to knot the game at 43.
Oddly, USCGA suddenly hit a cold streak, failing to score over the next five minutes of play as they saw Merchant Marine tally 10 in a row over that timeframe.
Holding a 53-43 advantage with 2:42 remaining, Merchant Marine's victory was all but secured. However, sub-par free throw shooting down the stretch for the Mariners kept Coast Guard in the game.
In the final two minutes, Merchant Marine hit only seven of their 18 free throw attempts, leaving the door open for Coast Guard to make a comeback.
Despite the poor foul shooting, USMMA was able to hold on to their lead and secure the nine point victory.
Four Mariners reached double-figures with Resor leading the way with 14 points. Sophomore guard Demi VanDerWal (Springfield, IL) and senior captain Tamara Kaileh (Kings Park, NY) had 13 and 12 points respectively with Kaileh, who was named Landmark Conference Player of the Week earlier today, now reaching double-figures in her sixth consecutive game.
Ellenberger recorded her second double-double of the season coming off the bench to tally 10 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Although Josephs was held one point shy of double-figures, she tied USMMA's all-time single-season steals record, snatching five on the night. Ranking 18th nationally in steals per game averaging 3.9 on the season, she currently leads the Landmark Conference and needs only two more to break the conference single-season steals record set by Juniata's Claudia McDowell during the 2007-08 season.
For Coast Guard, junior guard Kaitlin Ward (Saline, MI) notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Fornaro also scored 14 to tie for the Bears' team lead and freshman guard Victoria Sutherland (Houston, TX) also reached double-figure scoring with 10.
Prior to Head Coach Matt Dempsey coming to Kings Point, USMMA had a 1-7 overall record against Coast Guard. In the past five seasons under Dempsey, he's helped guide the Mariners to a 4-1 record against their rivals from USCGA.
The Mariners' four game win streak marks their longest string of victories this season. They look to build on their momentum as they close out the 2012-13 campaign on the road against Landmark Conference opponents Drew on February 13 at 7:00 PM and Susquehanna on February 16 at 2:00 PM.