One would have thought that the heart-rending defeat Navy suffered to Bucknell a year ago was enough. After all, how many agonizing losses does a program have to endure before it finally breaks through? Unfortunately for the Midshipmen, there is no magic number, as their dispiriting overtime setback to Colgate in this year’s Patriot League quarterfinals showed. Only painful lessons learned that hopefully will serve them will in the future.
“This is our journey,” Lange said. “We’ve got to go through this. I mean it’s unfortunate because I really feel that we can beat anybody in our conference. I’ve felt that way for two seasons, and it’s just unfortunate. . . . In the end, we’re going to have to get to a point where we win one of these games.”
Perhaps it was the burden of trying to win its first Patriot League tournament game since 2001 that caused Navy’s shooting touch to go amiss. The Midshipmen are usually a potent offensive team, but on Wednesday night, their scoring stagnated. Colgate, which few expected to win, was playing carefree. Navy, meanwhile, was trying so hard not to lose that it never developed any rhythm.
“As a former player, as we know, when you miss easy ones there’s a tendency to take some bad ones or make easier ones harder than they really have to be,” Lange said. “I really felt at halftime we were making the game harder than it needed to be.”
The unexpected loss to Colgate doesn’t diminish the successful season the Midshipmen enjoyed. They won more games this season than they had in any season since 2000. Navy clearly is headed in the right direction. It is only a matter of taking that next step.
“This team had a good season,” senior guard Kaleo Kina said. “The program is going in the right direction. It’s a great bunch of guys. I couldn’t have been happier than any team I’ve been on.”
Though Kina, the Patriot League’s scoring leader this season, graduates as does forward Adam Teague, Navy has three starters returning: guards Chris Harris and O.J. Avworo and center Mark Veazey. Talented defender Romeo Garcia who missed most of the season with hamstring injuries also should be back. The challenge for Lange will be convincing those players who have suffered through the program’s down years that Navy has what it takes to not only win a Patriot League tournament game but contend for the title.
“We’re kind of two different programs within a program right now,” Lange said. “We’ve got some upperclassmen who really have been through some tough times. Then we’ve got some younger guys who feel no pressure because they stepped in and we started winning. . . . Our program is still growing. We’ll get there.”
March 5, 2009; 3:23 PM ET
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