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Eagles fall to Navy on Senior Day

American falls short after 23-point games from Rogers and Stephens

The American University men’s basketball team (16-15) closed out their regular season on March 3 with a loss to the Navy Midshipmen (12-17) by a score of 71-65

The team’s five seniors, forward Matt Rogers and guards Lincoln Ball, Lorenzo Donadio, Colin Smalls and Chris Gleaton, were honored in a ceremony before the game for Senior Day. Head coach Duane Simpkins had high praise for these players, saying “Character is one of our four core values on this team, and I can say without a doubt that they are high-character young men.”

The Eagles carried the momentum into this final game, coming off two road wins at Colgate on Feb. 25 and at Army on Feb. 28. Navy entered on a three-game winning streak, stretching back to a 69-62 road win at Loyola Maryland on Feb. 21. 

American needed a win in this game to have a chance at the #2 seed in the Patriot League Tournament, which would guarantee them two postseason home games should they win the first. With a loss, the Eagles would tumble all the way to the #4 seed, still guaranteeing a home quarterfinal match and a first-round bye, but likely forcing a travel date for the team to #2 Boston University or #1 Colgate in the semifinals. 

This game featured the return of Smalls, who missed most of February’s games with an injury. Freshman forward Matt Mayock and sophomore center Jermaine Ballisager Webb remained out. 

The Eagles and Midshipmen started off this matchup close, with an 18-17 score in favor of Navy in the first 10 minutes of play. Rogers put up 9 points in this stretch, setting his pace for what would turn out to be a career day. After trading scores for the remainder of the half, American entered the break down 2 with a score of 32-30. 

After allowing a 5-0 run from the Midshipmen out of halftime, AU fired back with a 9-0 run of their own, with 5 of those points coming from Rogers. Junior guard Elijah Stephens, who recorded 8 points in the first half, put up the other 4 in the run, giving American their first lead since the 11-minute mark in the first half. Six ties and six lead changes told the story of the second half, a 12-minute stretch where the Midshipmen outscored American 23-22. 

Down 60-59 with just under five minutes remaining, the Eagles needed to get one clutch basket and hold on to the lead. Rogers and Stephens both got to the 23-point mark in the second half, their heroics keeping the Eagles in contention to win the contest. However, Navy pulled away, and a couple of misses from American with seconds remaining was enough to ice the game, a 71-65 loss for the Eagles. 

Simpkins credited the Midshipmen after the game, saying “a team with rhythm and confidence is hard to beat at home or away.” 

He showed confidence in the Eagles’ chances in the Patriot League Tournament, saying “If we do what we do, I like our chances against anyone.” 

The Eagles head into the Patriot League Tournament with the #4 seed and their first matchup set against the Bucknell Bison on March 7 in Bender Arena. 

“I’m proud of my team; we fought through a lot of adversity in February,” Simpkins said. “We want to send them [our seniors] out in style, and hopefully that comes with three more wins.”

This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing by Luna Jinks, Liah Argiropoulos and Ariana Kavoossi.

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