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Women’s basketball notebook: Army, Navy set for important weekend clash

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More than just Service Academy bragging rights are on the line this weekend as Army and Navy jockey for positioning in the Patriot League tournament.

Army v American University Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Dave Magarity announced earlier this year that he would step down as Army’s women’s basketball coach and retire at the end of this season.

Magarity, 71, has coached more than 1,000 men and women’s basketball games across his 40-plus year career. He’s coached the Army women since 2006, and had a stretch from 2012 through 2016 where the Black Knights made four straight post-season appearances. He’s Army’s all-time wins leader with 266 victories

In his 15-year career as the head coach at West Point, Magarity has been particularly good at besting the Black Knights’ rival — the Navy Midshipmen. Magarity has a 10-4 record in Star Series games and he’s hoping to add two tallies to the win column this weekend.

Navy (5-6; 3-1) will host Army (9-10; 6-8) on Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at noon. Both games will air on CBS Sports Network.

While Army split a weekend series with Navy back in January, beating the Mids this time won’t be easy. Navy is hitting its stride under first-year head coach Tim Taylor, winning three in a row and five out of its last six games.

Navy topped Lafayette on Wednesday — 55-53 — behind the play of Jennifer Coleman, who stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks. Freshman Sam Schofield chipped in 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench.

Listed at just 5-foot-9, Coleman is averaging a double-double this season with 17.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per-game. According to HerHoopStats, her 9.2 defensive rebounds per-game are fourth-best in the nation. The junior is also sixth in Patriot League in usage rate (28.4%), second in defensive win shares (1.1) and second in defensive rating (73.4).

Coleman has missed a handful of games this season, but when she’s on the court, Navy leans on her. According to Todd Goclowski at The Next, Coleman and Kolbi Green have scored 66.3% of the Mids’ points across their last three wins.

Navy’s recent win streak has moved them into a first-place tie with American for the South Division crown. With just five regular season games left, two wins against Army could go a long way for the Mids’ postseason aspirations.

Army meanwhile is on a two-game slide, losing a pair of games to Boston University, which has already secured a berth in the Patriot League tournament. A player who could make a difference for them against Navy is Alisa Fallon, who is coming off a 17-point, seven-rebound performance vs. Boston. Fallon leads the Patriot League in minutes played (480), total rebounds (101), assists (52) and free throws made (36) this season, according to HerHoopStats.

The back-to-back Army-Navy games this weekend are important. And not just for Service Academy bragging rights. For Army, it’s a chance for Magarity to beat the Mids again and to improve his chances at another postseason run with the Black Knights. For Navy, it’s an opportunity for the Mids to keep building winning habits under Taylor and secure their place in the conference tournament.

Checking in on Air Force…

The Falcons had a two-game series vs. Nevada postponed earlier this week due to COVID-19 issues within the Wolf Pack. The Mountain West is expected to reschedule the games.

Air Force is hosting Colorado Christian University this Friday. The Division II side is 2-12 this season. On paper, it should be a win for the struggling 4-13 Falcons.

The last time Air Force took the floor, it lost 62-54 to Fresno State. Briana Autrey-Thompson was impressive though, pouring in 24 points on 16 shots while also adding three rebounds, three assists and two steals. The 5-foot-6 junior from Suffolk, Virginia is averaging 12.5 points, 4.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per-game this season. She leads the Mountain West in steals with 2.2 per-game and also has the conference’s best assist-percentage with a 37.2% mark, per HerHoopStats.