The VMI Keydets rallied from a 12-point second half deficit to take a six-point lead with four minutes to go, but the Army Black Knights finished the game on a 15-3 run and went on to win the All-Military Classic, 92-86, Saturday night at Christl Arena in West Point, N.Y.
After Maxwell Lenox had scored to cut Army’s (2-0) deficit to four, the Keydets (1-1) committed a turnover on the ensuing possession. Army’s Kyle Wilson, the tournament MVP, then had a three-point play to make it a one-point game. Army took the lead on its next possession and the score was tied just once the rest of the way as the Black Knights won the tournament title for the first time.
Julian Eleby led the way for the Keydets, finishing with a career-high 20 points, while QJ Peterson chipped in 19. Phillip Anglade notched 13 points on 6 of 7 shooting and added seven rebounds, while Army was led by Wilson’s 19 points. Tanner Plomb added 18 for the victorious Black Knights, who had four players in double figures.
Army jumped ahead early in front of its home crowd, going up 9-2 in the opening minutes, but the Keydets immediately answered with a 17-5 run that Anglade capped with a basket at the 14:47 mark. That gave VMI a 19-14 edge, a lead that grew to as many as six in the first half. Army did not lead again until a basket by Plomb with 7:38 on the clock, a hoop that gave them a 34-33 lead.
That basket set up several minutes of back and forth action that saw neither team lead by more than four until Fred Iruafemi scored his first collegiate basket with 1:44 remaining in the half. That gave VMI a six point lead, 51-45, but the home team scored the seven of the last nine points of the half to cut the Keydets’ halftime lead to one, 53-52.
The Keydets forced 12 turnovers in the first half, when they were led by Eleby’s 11 points, but it was the Black Knights who were electric to start the second half. A 19-4 run gave Army its biggest lead of the night, 71-57, with 13:53 to play.
VMI’s defense then fueled a massive comeback, limiting the home team to just one field goal over the next seven-plus minutes. The Keydet offense, meanwhile, launched a 20-4 run that culminated with a Trey Chapman basket with 6:40 left, giving the visitors a 77-75 lead.
Army would score the next time down the floor, tying the game, but a 6-0 run gave the Keydets the lead with 4:16 left, 83-77. Lenox then scored with 4:05 left, setting up the final dramatic stretch, but the game was very much in doubt until the final seconds.
Jordan Weethee tied the score with a three-point play in traffic with 90 seconds remaining, but after Plomb made a contested jumper and the Keydets missed two free throws, Dylan Cox made a driving layup to cap Army’s run. Wilson sealed the win with two free throws with 14 seconds left, accounting for the final margin.
Army finished the night 36 of 65 from the floor (55.4%), but was held to 5 of 19 (26.3%) from distance one night after hitting over 50 percent from long range. The Keydets held the Black Knights without a three-point field goal in the second half and forced 18 turnovers for the contest.
VMI, meanwhile, was 33 of 75 (44.0%) from the floor and 9 of 24 from long range (37.5%). The major difference came at the line, where Army was 15 of 29 (51.7%) and the Keydets went 11 of 15 (73.3%).
In addition to Wilson and Plomb, Peterson, Max Yon of Air Force and Ashton Moore of The Citadel were named to the All-Tournament Team.
VMI basketball will return to action Tuesday, taking on Johnson University in the team’s home opener at Cameron Hall. Game time is set for 7 p.m.