• December 25, 2014

Can Army be Cinderella at big dance?

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Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014 4:30 am

Don’t bother retired Lt. Gen. Dave Palmer, of Belton, at 11:30 a.m. this Sunday.

“You bet I’ll be watching Army take on Maryland!” Palmer said Thursday night.

The Army women’s basketball team will be making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006.

“It’s just great what these girls at Army were able to accomplish this year,” said Palmer, a 1956 graduate of West Point. Palmer later served his alma mater as its superintendent.

“These girls at Army had a super record this season (25-7). And remember that we have no recruited athletes. These girls on our Army team are full-time college students who play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

Army earned its berth to the big dance by winning the Patriot League tournament championship. The Black Knights, a No. 13 seed, will face No. 4 Maryland on its home court at College Park. ESPN2 will televise the Sunday morning contest live.

“Being a No. 4 seed means that Maryland is obviously one of the tougher teams in this tournament,” Palmer said. “If Army wins, yes, it will be an upset — but that’s exactly what I’m hoping for.”

Army is led by its 5-foot-8, do-everything, sophomore guard Kelsey Minato, the 2014 Patriot League Player of the Year. Minato leads Army in scoring (21.8 ppg) and assists (3.4).

She’s shooting a remarkable 43 percent from beyond the arc. She’s dead-eye from the charity stripe, too, canning 92 percent of her freebies.

“We’re all proud of these women,” Palmer said. “The fact that our best player is just a sophomore is also good news. If she has a great game against Maryland and we win, Army could then go on and be the surprise team in this tournament.”

Ellison High School Lady Eagles head coach Sherry McKinnon believes an upset is possible.

“First, the Maryland head coach (Brenda Frese) has a tough job to do,” McKinnon said. “She must make sure her team doesn’t overlook Army. And it is possible that Maryland’s players will overlook Army — start thinking about the second round a little prematurely. Army will be relaxed because it has nothing to lose.”

Some of McKinnon’s former players have enlisted in the military.

“I’m rooting for Army, of course,” McKinnon said. “I am totally impressed what this team has done this year. If I were coaching them, I would just remind their players that everyone’s record is back to 0-0 in tournament time. Only 64 are left. I’d tell them you made it to the big dance, anyone can beat anyone at anytime and you have absolutely nothing to lose.

“I am very excited for Army.”

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