WEST POINT - It was a tale of two halves for Army women’s basketball as the Black Knights defeated the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, 77-40, on Thursday evening at Christl Arena. Army scored 27 points in the first half against the Division III foe before matching that total after just nine minutes of play in the second half en route to a 50-point frame, while holding the Mariners to just 17 points in the second.
Eleven players cracked the scoring column for Army led by senior Anna Simmers’ 15-point night. Simmers played just 23 minutes as head coach Dave Magarity had 14 Black Knights check into the game. Freshmen Kelsey Minato and Bridget Ryan pitched in 11 points apiece, marking a career best for Ryan.
The first half caught Army bit off guard as the Black Knights (9-3) found themselves behind with 6:52 remaining, as the Mariners (4-4) maintained their lead for nearly five minutes. USMMA led by as many as six (23-17) with 4:05 remaining, before Army battled back to end the first half with a four-point lead, 27-23.
The second half was an entirely different story as the Black Knights roared with a 33-2 run, lasting over nine minutes, including six points by Simmers. Minato drained a pair of threes to add to the total, as Magarity began subbing out his lineup’s mainstays.
Three Black Knights had career highs in points, led by Ryan’s 11-point showing and followed by freshman Brigette Ocran who added eight, including 2-of-3 from outside, and sophomore Krishawn Tillett with five points.
Minato (3), Ocran (2), Ryan (3), Tillett (1), and junior Jen Hazlett (3) combined for 12 three-pointers, matching the Academy record set on Dec. 7, 2004 against Brown.
Army’s 77 points matched its season best first established at Weber State (Nov. 21), while the Black Knights’ 67 attempts from the floor and 18 assists also stand at No. 1 this season.
With a 9-3 record, Army is off to its second-best start under the direction of Magarity, who is in his seventh year as head coach at West Point. Magarity’s best premiere came in his first season at the helm when the Black Knights won 16 games before suffering their third loss of the year. That team went on to finish 24-6.
"I give Merchant Marine a ton of credit," said Magarity after the game. "The beginning of the game where we got off to the 8-0 start and then they settled down and executed and made some tough shots. It’s a big game for those kids. I kept telling our kids, you have to understand, this is a monumental game for them, we’re their first Division I game, at least this group.
"I was really proud with how our kids came out in the second half," Magarity continued. "I challenged them at halftime; we were just going through the motions, we thought we were just going to show up and beat them just because they were a Division III team, and they have more pride than that, and that’s what this is about, your personal pride and how you play.
"I thought Simmers got us going in the second half, she was aggressive and we need her to be aggressive - that’s when she’s at her best. When we went to the bench, I was really impressed. Bridget Ryan shot the ball well, Brigette Ocran did a great job going in. Overall I’m happy with how the game finished."
Demi VanDerWal had 14 points to lead the Mariners, while Tamara Kaileh added 11. Rebecca Resor collected a game-high seven rebounds.
The Black Knights will next host Bryant on December 30th. Tip-off at Christl Arena is slated for 1 p.m.