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February 27, 2013

Ellis leads Army to 69-62 win on Senior Night

WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army senior Ella Ellis celebrated his final regular season home appearance with 31 points, including 23 in the second half, to lead the Black Knights (15-13, 8-5 PL) to a 69-62 win over Holy Cross (11-17, 3-10) Wednesday night at Christl Arena. The victory clinched at least a fourth-place finish in the conference standings and guaranteed Army will host a Patriot League quarterfinal game next Wednesday.

Army enters Saturday's regular-season finale with a chance to finish as high as second in the league. A win at Lehigh coupled with a Lafayette loss versus American would create a three-way tie among the Black Knights, Leopards and Mountain Hawks. Army would take the No. 2 seed thanks to what would be a 3-1 record versus those two opponents.

The victory assured Army of its first non-losing season since 1984-85 (16-13) and clinched its first ever winning record in Patriot League play. It is the Black Knights first winning record in league play since going 8-6 in the MAAC during the 1986-87 season.

The Black Knights trailed by eight in the first half, but came back to take a two-point lead at halftime. Holy Cross scored the first six points of the second stanza to take a four-point lead less than two minutes in, but Army outscored the Crusaders 39-28 for the remainder of the contest, including a 27-18 edge in the final 10:45.

Ellis's 31 points marked his second 30-point night in the last three games. After an 0-for-6 start, the Houston native made seven of his final 13 shots and knocked down four three-pointers in 11 tries. He was a perfect 13-for-13 from the foul line, all in the second half. Sophomore G Maxwell Lenox led the team with seven rebounds, while rookie Kyle Wilson dished out five assists.

Freshman Larry Toomey blocked four shots, tying for second on Army's single-game list. It is the 12th time in school history a player has totaled at least four rejections. The last was Marcus Nelson's school-record five blocks against Quinnipiac on Nov. 17, 2008.

Phil Beans led four Holy Cross players in double figures with 16 points. Dave Dudzinski had 15, while Justin Burrell and Jordan Stevens added 12 and 10, respectively. Burrell also dished out a game-high seven assists.

Army pulled out the win despite shooting just 35.1 percent overall (20-57) and 32.0 percent from three-point range. It marked the first time the Black Knights won a game this season when shooting below 30 percent. The Crusaders hit 47.8 percent overall and were 6-for-15 from three-point range. It was the Black Knights' first win this season when its opponent shot a better percentage (1-10). The Black Knights overcame the off shooting night by outscoring the Crusaders 13-4 on second-chance opportunities. Army outrebounded the Crusaders 39-39, including a 15-3 edge on the offensive glass. The Black Knights also outscored Holy Cross at the foul line, 21-12.

Holy Cross scored the first five points before Army answered with four of its own to cut the lead to one with 17:55 to go. Leading 10-9, the Crusaders scored 12 of the next 15 points to take a 22-14 advantage with 7:08 left. Army went two minutes, 23 seconds between field goals during the Holy Cross run.

Wilson knocked down his first three-pointer to end the Crusaders' momentum, and Army pulled within three at 22-19. A three-pointer by Dee Goens pushed Holy Cross back in front by six with 3:26 left, but Ellis snapped an 0-for-6 start with his first three-pointer to make it a three-point game. He scored the next basket as well to pull Army within one at 25-24.

The Crusaders bumped their lead back to four points, but Army scored the final six of the half on three-pointers by Kyle Toth and Ellis to take a 30-28 lead. Both teams missed opportunities to score in the closing seconds of the half, and Army took its two-point advantage into the locker room.

Army led despite shooting 33.3 percent (11-33) from the field overall and 28.6 percent (4-14) from long range. The Crusaders made 45.5 percent (10-22) of their shots from the floor, including an identical percentage from three-point distance (5-11). Ellis and Wilson led the Black Knights with eight first-half points. Beans had nine for the Crusaders.

Holy Cross started the second half on a 6-0 run before a putback by Kevin Ferguson stopped Army's three minute, 35 second scoring drought. Army slowly whittled away at the lead, until Ellis buried two free throws at the 13:45 mark to tie the game at 39-39. Stevens hit a three-pointer to put Holy Cross back on top, but Dylan Cox answered with his only three-pointer of the night (1-1) to tie the game with 11:24 left. Stevens again answered for the Crusaders, scooping up a loose ball and getting a breakaway dunk.

Jordan Springer tied the game for the fourth time, and Ferguson hit a free throw to give Army the lead by one at 45-44 with 9:36 left. The Black Knights would not trail again. Army scored its next four points at the line to push its lead 49-46, and after Holy Cross cut the deficit to one on two occasions, Ellis scored five straight points to put Army on top 56-50 with 5:02 left. Holy Cross cut its deficit to three again, but Ellis buried another three-pointer to make it a six-point game. The Crusaders got no closer than four points the rest of the game. Ellis scored seven of Army's final nine points, including a 5-for-5 showing at the line.

The victory gave Army a regular season sweep of the Crusaders for the first time. The two teams have played at least twice every season since 1983-84.

Army will wrap up the regular season at Lehigh on Saturday at 12 p.m. The game will be televised live by CBS Sports Network. The Mountain Hawks won the first meeting of the season at Christl Arena.

Game Notes: Senior Jason Pancoe was in uniform for Wednesday's game but did not play … Pancoe has not played this season due to concussion-related issues … Army won its program record fifth straight Patriot League game … the Black Knights own the longest current winning streak in the conference … it is Army's first five-game winning streak since 2009-10 … Army can clinch its first winning season since 1984-85 with one more victory … Ella Ellis moved into sixth place on Army's career scoring list (1,528) … he needs just 16 points to pass Chris Spatola for fifth place … Spatola will be in attendance on Saturday, calling the game for CBS Sports Network … Army has made at least 225 three-pointers in each of the last three seasons … no Army team made more than 188 before 2010-11 … Ellis is the first Army player with at least three 30-point games in a season since Jarrell Brown had three in 2007-08.

Ellis leads Army to 69-62 win on Senior Night as the senior scored 31 points as the Black Knights win fifth straight. Click here for more details inside Wednesday's contest.


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