Posted: March 4, 2009
WEST POINT, N.Y. – For the third straight year a Lehigh-Army Patriot League tournament game went down to the final seconds, but a 12-point second half deficit for the Mountain Hawks was too much to overcome, as the host Black Knights held on for a 53-50 win Wednesday night at Christl Arena. The Mountain Hawks crept within a point on two separate occasions and had the basketball down by three with 25 seconds remaining, but junior Marquis Hall misfired on a pair of three point attempts, and sophomore Rob Keefer’s attempt at a buzzer-beating, game-tying three hit the front of the rim.
With the victory Army improves to 11-18 on the season and moves into Sunday’s semifinal round, while Lehigh’s season comes to an end at 15-14.
“I’m proud of our guys’ effort,” said Lehigh head coach Brett Reed. “We still had a chance to tie the game despite facing a 12-point deficit. It was a hard fought game. When you grab 20 offensive rebounds like we did, it shows that the effort was certainly there.”
Junior Zahir Carrington led the Mountain Hawks recording his tenth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while freshman John Adams also registered a double-double in his first career start, totaling 12 points and grabbing 11 caroms.
“John gave a great effort,” Reed added. “We needed him on the defensive end. He shot the ball well, and played with a lot of passion but ultimately we were unable to come through.”
Cleveland Richard totaled a game-high 15 points for Army, while Marcus Nelson added 13 for the Black Knights, who knocked Lehigh out of the Patriot League tournament for the third straight year.
Lehigh shot just 29 percent from the field on the evening and connected on just one of 17 three point attempts. The Mountain Hawks were unable to capitalize on a 45-29 rebounding advantage against the Black Knights, who shot 42 percent from the field for the game.
Both teams struggled offensively out of the gate, but for the Mountain Hawks their first-half shooting woes continued for the full 20 minutes. Lehigh shot just 22 percent from the field in the opening half, including an 0-for-8 effort from beyond the three point arc.
Army pulled ahead in the latter part of the half, using a 7-0 run to break a 15-15 deadlock. The Black Knights opened up their largest lead of the half after a Cleveland Richard three-pointer put the home team up by eight with 1:49 remaining. Lehigh did not make a field goal in the final four and a half minutes of the half, but a 7-for-11 effort from the free throw line left Lehigh down 25-19 at halftime.
Carrington led Lehigh in the opening half with six points and five rebounds, while junior Dave Buchberger and Adams each added four points and five rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.
The Black Knights shot 39 percent from the field in the first half and were led by Richard’s eight points.
In the second half, Army’s lead ballooned as high as 12 points before Lehigh began its comeback. A Keefer layup and a jumper from Adams put the Mountain Hawks within five and a Hall free throw left Lehigh down by four with just under eight minutes to play.
Back-to-back buckets for Adams brought Lehigh within a point with 2:35 remaining, but a missed free throw left the visitors down by one. When Army extended its lead to three, Hall connected on a pair of free throws with 1:56 to play to bring Lehigh back within one, before Richard knocked down his third three-pointer of the game to extend the Army lead to four with 1:34 to play.
The game’s final 90 seconds were action-packed. Carrington converted a layup to put Lehigh within two, but then missed a chance at a three-point play. The Mountain Hawks earned a stop on the defensive end, but turned the ball over to Army, and Marcus Nelson put the Black Knights back up by four with a fast break dunk. Hall then raced down the court and knocked down Lehigh’s only triple of the evening, putting Lehigh down 51-50 with just 27 ticks remaining. Two Josh Miller free throws brought the Army lead back to three, but on the final possession Hall could not connect on two long three-point attempts and Keefer’s try from the right wing in the final seconds fell just short.
Hall was the third Mountain Hawk in double figures as he finished with ten points, five assists and three rebounds.
“Early on we missed some easy shots,” Reed concluded. “Afterwards, we made some adjustments. It is always difficult when you shoot 22 percent in the first half. Ultimately when you shoot 28 percent with so many second chances, it's difficult to come out on top.”
Mountain Hawks Post-Game Extra with Matt Kerr and Greg Falkenbach '72