- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

ANNAPOLIS — On Senior Night and in perhaps the most important game in the Patriot League this season, Navy’s veteran leader shone.

Led by senior Greg Sprink’s 34 points, the Midshipmen completed a season sweep of American 83-68 last night at Alumni Hall.

The win moved Navy (16-12, 9-4) into first place ahead of the Eagles (17-11, 9-4) because the Mids own the tiebreaker. Navy can clinch the regular-season title with a win Saturday at Colgate, but the Red Raiders are the last team to beat Navy, 84-77 in Annapolis on Feb. 2.

The regular-season standings are especially important because Patriot League tournament games are played on the home courts of the higher seeds. Since the winner of the conference tournament is likely to be the Patriot League’s only representative in the NCAA tournament, the team that earns home court advantage gives itself a great chance. In the 15 years the Patriot League final has been played at a home site, the hosts are 12-3.

This was the sixth straight win for Navy, which snapped American’s six-game winning streak. The perimeter-oriented Mids, playing four and sometimes five guards, launched 3-pointers from all around the arc in the first half. But when AU’s defense stiffened in the second, Navy turned to its senior leader.

Sprink scored 12 of his 16 first-half points from beyond the arc but added only two long-range shots in the second half. Instead, he attacked the rim relentlessly with driving layups and floaters.

AU came out with a stronger defensive effort to start the second half and stymied Navy’s offense. The Mids led 51-43 with 14:30 remaining, but the Eagles then held Navy without a field goal for nearly eight minutes. That enabled AU to take its first lead with a 10-0 run.

Adam Teague snapped Navy out of the drought with a long 3-pointer, tying the game 58-58 with 7:04 remaining. Sprink gave the Mids the lead with a layup on their next possession and ensured they didn’t give it up.

“I think the game found me a little bit towards the end,” Sprink said. “I was trying to force it, got a little too emotional. My teammates and the coaches refocused me, and I harnessed the energy towards the end.”

Garrison Carr made a valiant effort to keep the Eagles in the game. He scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half as American overcame its eight-point first-half deficit.

But in the end, there was too much Sprink. The senior scored 13 points in the final six minutes of the game and left to a standing ovation with 14.3 seconds remaining.

“Bottom line, he is the man,” Navy coach Billy Lange said. “He started his run in the last American game. From that American game, the consistency of his play, his desire to win for Navy, he’s cemented his place here as a basketball player.”

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