WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Kelsey Minato and Army are headed back to the NCAA Tournament.
Minato scored 25 points to help the top-seeded Black Knights beat Loyola, Md. 69-51 on Saturday night and win the Patriot League Tournament, earning the conference's NCAA bid.
"It feels awesome," Minato said. "It's something we've been working towards since the end of last season. We found missing pieces of the puzzle. People have embraced their role. Each girl has contributed to what we've been able to accomplish. I'm so proud of this team."
Aimee Oertner added 14 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for the Black Knights, who are making their second trip to the NCAA Tournament in the past three seasons. They went in 2014, their first appearance since 2006 when Maggie Dixon led them to the NCAAs.
The victory was the 19th straight for the Black Knights (29-2), who matched Lehigh's team from 2009-10 for most wins in a season for a Patriot League school.
"This team never ceased to amaze me this year," Army coach Dave Magarity said. "Sort of mind blowing we're 29-2. The way we got there. The teams we beat along the way."
This was the first year that the Patriot League played its semifinals and finals on consecutive nights.
Third-seeded Loyola (16-16) pulled off the upset of No. 2 seed Bucknell on Friday night in the semifinals to advance to the title game. The Greyhounds, who joined the Patriot League in 2013, were trying for their first trip to the NCAAs since 1995 when they won the MAAC title.
"They are a great team," Loyola coach Joe Logan said. "We knew we couldn't let them get out to a big lead and be able to recover."
The Black Knights jumped out to a quick lead behind their star Minato, who won the tournament MVP. She had 10 points in the opening quarter as Army used a 9-0 run to open up a double-digit lead. The Black Knights led 20-9 after the first period, much to the delight of the strong home crowd.
But the Greyhounds rallied behind Diana Logan. The senior, who only averaged 3.8 points in conference play, scored seven straight to open the second quarter. She capped the team's 12-0 run with another 3-pointer to give Loyola a 21-20 advantage.
That was the Greyhounds' final lead of the game as the Black Knights scored the next 10 points, during a 13-2 run to close the half.
Army led 33-23 at the break and upped its advantage to 47-30 after four straight points by Janae McNeal. Loyola scored the final seven points of the third to get within 47-37, but could get no closer.
Logan scored 15 points and Colleen Marshall added 12 for the Greyhounds.
Loyola: The Greyhounds have lost the last seven meetings to Army, including the previous two this season by eight points and 33 points.
Army: Hanging high above the Army court was Minato's retired jersey. She became the first active West Point athlete so honored while still active when it was hung on senior night. ... The senior class has the most wins in Patriot League history (99) over a four-year period, besting the mark set by Lehigh's class of 2011 which won 94 games. ... Minato broke her own school record for the season, surpassing the 726 points she scored in 2013-14.
REMEMBERING MAGGIE: Getting back to the NCAAs was special for Magarity as it was the 10th anniversary of Army's first trip to the tournament under rookie coach Maggie Dixon. She died in April 2006 at the age of 28 of an arrhythmia that was likely caused by an enlarged heart.
"For me it's probably more personal this one because of that," Magarity said. "It's 10 years this April. It's hard. It's hard for me because she was such a big part of what this program's all about."
Loyola: waiting on postseason berth.
Army: NCAA Tournament.
- Kevin Farlow
- Shawn Goode
- Scott Osborne