Army’s Trinity Hardy and Reese Ericson looked like they were having the time of their lives during Saturday’s “Star game” against Navy at West Point. Fortunately, for the Black Knights, they played like it too.
With Hardy driving inside and dominating the boards and Ericson hitting outside shots, coach Missy Traversi called her two stars a dynamic duo that, when playing well, can keep other teams off balanced.
Saturday, they blended perfectly together. Hardy, a junior from Lakeland, Fla., scored 23 points, dished off five assists and grabbed eight rebounds, while Ericson, a sophomore from Lake Oswego, Ore., pumped in 21 points, including six 3-point shots, to lead Army to a 70-58 victory in a Patriot League game. Army earned its fifth straight win over their arch rivals before a boisterous, even rowdy, crowd at Christl Arena that included many of the players on the West Point football team cheering on their schoolmates.
“I want to credit the players, particularly Reese and Trinity,” said Traversi. “On the brightest stage, they seem to shine the brightest. I thought their preparation coming into today’s game was excellent. They executed the game plan. It feels good, especially to win the Star Game, for our senior class especially. I don’t think they ever lost the Star Game. This was a big one for them.”
There is little doubt that Hardy and Ericson love being on the court together and play off each other’s strength to give Army an edge on their competition.
“It is so much fun playing with Trinity,” said Ericson, who was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year last season and continues to improve this year. “All I have to do is stand there and the ball just comes to me and then all I have to do is catch the ball and shoot. I have the easiest job in the world and I appreciate Trinity for that because truly I would not have all these shots I do and score the points I score if it was not for Trinity.”
Hardy threw it right back on Ericson, noting that her crisp passes and outside shots make it easier for her to drive inside. “Playing with Reese makes my life so much easier,” she added. “Reese is able to find a window every time I drive and the team will scout me and they put three defenders on me. I do not have to do it myself because I have Reese on my side and that is a really good feeling.”
Hardy and Ericson have emerged as the stars of an Army team that continues to confound its coaches and fans. After a rough start to the season, especially with its non-league schedule, the Black Knights won five games in a row before falling at last-place Lafayette last Saturday, 68-54, despite hitting 10 three-pointers. Still, Army (10-11 overall, 7-4 in the Patriot League) is just one game behind first place Holy Cross in the league standings with five games remaining before the postseason tournament and its NCAA bid.
On Saturday, while Hardy and Ericson scored nearly 60 percent of Army’s points, this was still a team win. The Black Knight came to play on both ends of the court. Army raced out to a 7-0 lead, and were up 24-13 at the end of the first quarter. Dominating the boards, the Black Knights doubled Navy, 38-19, with just under two minutes left in the first half, before taking a 38-25 lead into halftime.
Navy managed to cut the lead to eight several times in the second half, but either Hardy or Ericson responded with big shots—Ericson hit three 3-pointers in a row and Hardy had one—to squash any Navy comeback.
“At the end of the day, I just had to bring our team together,” said Hardy about Navy’s failed attempts to close the deficit. “We have these little touchpoints. They are our moments. No one else matter, nothing else matters. It is just us over everyone else. Those moments are key and that is what led us to victory.”
While calling the Navy game Army’s Super Bowl, Traversi is hopeful that the win will spur the team on for the rest of the season. “Beating Navy, here at home, and in front of this crowd, this is a huge momentum boost going into the second half of the Patriot League schedule.” She said. “The effort, the hustle, the desire, we wanted it more than Navy today and I think we executed for 40 minutes.”
This has not been a stellar season for either the Black Knights or the Midshipmen. With the victory, Army moved to 10-11 on the season, while Navy fell to 8-14, including a 66-51 loss to Army in Annapolis in mid-January. But, Army has saved its best play for the Patriot League, where they now have a 7-4 record and trail first place Holy Cross by just two games.