Posted: February 25, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh clinched its first Patriot League regular season title in school history on Wednesday with a 69-60 victory over Bucknell in Stabler Arena. The Mountain Hawks improve to 22-6 on the season and set a new school record with 11 Patriot League wins (11-2).
Lehigh also improves 13-0 on the season at Stabler Arena, trailing only the 1989-90 team for the most home wins in school history (14-0). Bucknell falls to 15-11 with the loss, including a 7-6 record in Patriot League play.
“It feels really good for me as an underclassman to win it for the older players,” sophomore guard Erica Prosser said. “They’ve been teaching me for this whole time so it’s nice to help win this for them.”
Three Mountain Hawks scored in double figures on Wednesday, and seven players scored at least six points. Prosser and Alex Ross tied for the team high with 18 points. Prosser also added seven assists and three steals, while Ross added one assist and three steals. Kristen Dalton chipped in with 11 points in her second consecutive start.
Lauren Schober paced the Bison with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Joyce Novacek added 10 rebounds to lead all players.
After a slow start, the Mountain Hawks rallied back in the second, outscoring the Bison 45-33 to seal the win. Lehigh won the rebounding battle 21-15 in the second, and capitalized with 16 second-chance points in the game.
“We just really challenged the girls at halftime,” Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan said. “I wasn’t happy at all with the effort so I told them if they want to win a regular season championship tonight, they’re going to have to play harder.”
The Mountain Hawks got off to a rough start to the game, falling behind 27-24 at the half. Lehigh lost the battle on the boards by a considerable margin in the first, trailing 26-17 in rebounding. But the Mountain Hawks stayed in the game by limiting the Bison to just six second-chance points on their 12 offensive rebounds in the half.
Lehigh also stayed alive by forcing the Bison into 13 turnovers in the period. Erica Prosser and Alex Ross each came away with two steals in the first half. Ross led the way with six points, and Prosser paced the Mountain Hawks with three assists in the first.
Amanda Brown led the Bison offense in the first half with five points and four assists, while Cosima Higham and Lauren Schober each chipped in six points. The Bison shot 40.6 percent from the field while holding the Brown and White to just 30.3 percent from the field, and 2-for 10 from downtown.
“She came in and screamed at us,” Prosser said of Troyan’s halftime speech. “She let us have it and we really came out and played better right away.”
The Mountain Hawks executed on all cylinders in the second half, shooting 62.5 percent from the field and a perfect 2-for-2 from 3-point land.
Prosser put Lehigh on top for the first time in the second half by taking a layup to the hole on the break with 15:59 left. The layup knotted the score at 34, and the ensuing free throw after Prosser was fouled gave Lehigh the lead.
Less than 10 minutes later, Prosser found Ross on the break for one of her seven assists on the night. Ross drilled a 3-pointer from the corner as her teammates rose from the bench in unison to put Lehigh up by 10, 60-50, with 6:34 remaining, and the Mountain Hawks would hold on for the win.
“Those things are all good,” Troyan said of winning her first regular season championship and being undefeated at home. “They’re nice accomplishments for the program, but there’s a bigger picture for this team.”
Lehigh will return to action on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. when the Mountain Hawks host the Holy Cross Crusaders at Stabler Arena in the regular season finale.
Buzzer beaters: Three players fouled out of the game on Wednesday. Haly Crites and Alexa Williams fouled out for Lehigh while Cosima Higham fouled out for Bucknell…Lehigh will host the first two rounds of the Patriot League Tournament on March 7-8, and the Mountain Hawks will now be the No. 1 seed in the tournament and will play against the No. 8 seed in game one at noon on March 7.
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