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Holy Cross nixes AUís NCAA hopes

(Published March 11, 2002)


Staff Writer

American Universityís chances of winning an automatic bid into this yearís NCAA basketball tournament danced out of reach as the Holy Cross Crusaders defeated the Eagles 58-54 on their home court to win the Patriot League and sent the Eagles (18-12) to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).

The NIT is a second-tier tournament that fields match-ups of mid-major colleges that werenít selected among the 64 teams to compete in the NCAA finals.

The Eagles have never been invited to the NCAA tournament and the sentiment around campus was that this was their year.

"This gym is usually less than half full," said AU fan Asia Page.

On championship night, Bender Arena on the Northwest Washington campus was filled over capacity to a hazardous standing-room-only environment. The Eagles suffered through 11 losing seasons and were anxious to break that string in a big way. The arena, filled with 4,521 screaming fans from both schools, kept the gameís intensity high.

The Patriots entered the championship game riding on eight wins over their last 10 games. Two losses to the Crusaders (18-14) haunted the team.

"The second loss was the last game of the season, after we had already clinched the regular season title, so the emotion just wasnít in that game," said junior Steven Miles. Winning the regular season crown afforded the Patriots the right to host the championship game after the tournament was played at Show Place Arena.

Emotions were running high at Bender Arena for the championship game 30 minutes before tip-off, all the way down the stretch until the last six seconds of the game. The lead was never more than four points in either teamís favor. A one-point halftime difference predicted the game would come down to the last possession. When poor shot selection in the final minute ended the Eaglesí dream, fans exited the gym quickly and quietly.

This was the Patriotsí first year in the Patriot League. Until this season they were part of the Colonial Athletic Association. They took the court brandishing the leagueís Player of the Year, senior C. Patrick Doctor, who posted two double-doubles in the Patriotsí two post-season tournament wins over Lehigh (82-69) and Lafayette (66-58). Their 18-11 mark was the best record posted since 1990.

Unfortunately for the home team, they were unable to get the ball inside to Doctor on their last possession and another player was forced to toss up a wing and a prayer three-pointer that bounced off the top of the backboard.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator