ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Like this season’s first two meetings, the third meeting between Lehigh and Army came down to the final minute. With 2.2 seconds remaining in the game, senior Adrienne Blount missed her first foul shot, but made the all-important second to give seventh-seeded Lehigh a 57-53 win over second-seeded Army on Saturday afternoon in the Patriot League Tournament quarterfinals held at Alumni Hall on the campus of Navy. Blount scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season. The Mountain Hawks, 11-18 overall, now advance to the Patriot League Tournament semifinals on Sunday.
“I’m real proud of how we played today against Army,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “We were physical and we played with a lot of intensity that matched Army’s. Down the stretch, we exectued well, were able to get good looks and we knocked down some tough shots. We’ve had close games like this all season long and it feels nice to come out with a win.”
Continues Troyan, “I wasn’t too worried when Adrienne got sent to the line. I knew if she made one, then the game would be put away. Army had 2.2 seconds to go a far way and they have done it before. When Adrienne made it, I knew she had it.”
“I was nervous on my first shot,” said Blount on her clutch free throws. “You could tell because on my first shot, it was all jittery. For my second shot, I just told myself to breathe and be loose like I had been all game. And it worked out.”
It was a close game for the first couple of minutes with Army only leading by one at the 17:41 mark. However, Lehigh went on a scoring drought that spanned nearly four minutes and saw the Black Knights’ lead grow to six points, but Blount scored seven points to pull Lehigh to within one and make the score 15-14 in favor of Army with 11:32 remaining.
The Mountain Hawks got their first lead of the game off a lay-up by freshman Kristen Dalton at 9:15 and then increased their lead to three with a lay-up by Blount. Army broke a 4:19 scoreless streak when Jen Hansen calmly sank both of her foul shots to cut Lehigh’s lead, but the Mountain Hawks eventually got a four-point cushion when freshman Alex Ross’ jumper fell through the basket at 5:03 to make the score 21-17.
The remaining five minutes of the half would be closely contested as three ties occurred. With Army leading 27-24 and 1:30 left in the half, sophomore Ryan Ingalls drained a three-pointer to tie the game. Stefanie Stone gave the Black Knights a two-point lead 31 seconds later, but it was short-lived as Blount made a lay-up and drew the foul. Blount made her free throw to complete the three point play and give Lehigh a 30-29 lead with 32 seconds to go. However, the Black Knights retook the lead when Hansen sank a three with seven seconds left to give Army a 32-30 lead heading into halftime.
In the second half, Blount tied the game at 32-all and Ross’ jumper in the paint allowed the Mountain Hawks to take a 34-32 lead, but Megan Evans tied the game for Army. Hansen then gave the Black Knights the lead again, this time by making a lay-up and drawing the foul. With Hansen making her shots at 16:08, Army took a 37-34 lead, which was also its largest of the half.
Lehigh regained the lead when Dalton made consecutive jumpers and then took its first four-point lead of the half with a trey by Ross. Army quickly cut the Mountain Hawks’ lead with a pair of foul shots from Hansen and Alex McGuire to knot the score up at 41-41 with 12:14 to go. However, Dalton drilled a three to put the Mountain Hawks up 44-41 with 11:18 left.
The Mountain Hawks tried to increase their lead throughout the remainder of the game, only to see Army fight back and come to within striking distance. With under 1:48 to play and only having a one point lead, Dalton drew the foul on McGuire and got sent to the charity stripe. She made both of her shots to give Lehigh a 54-51 lead, but the Mountain Hawks’ advantage was cut back 40 seconds later when Dalton fouled McGuire. McGuire made both shots to make it a one point game to enter into the final minute of play.
Blount’s jumper with 36 seconds provided Lehigh with a little breathing room, but it wasn’t until the last 2.2 seconds when the Mountain Hawks’ had the cushion they needed.
Dalton and Ross added 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Mountain Hawks.
Hansen scored a team-high 21 points for the Black Knights, while Stefanie Stone grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Lehigh’s trip to the semifinals on Sunday will be the first it has advanced past the opening round since 2004. Coincidentally, Lehigh defeated Army in the quarterfinals that year.
“We're just taking it one game at a time now,” said Troyan. “We came in focused on beating Army and did just that.”
Lehigh faces Holy Cross in Sunday's semifinal game at 3:30 pm at Navy’s Alumni Hall. Live audio of the game will be available in the Lehigh Valley on ESPN 1230 and 1320 as well as worldwide online at lehighsports.com, with streaming provided by Yahoo! Sports.
Photo (c) 2006, by Jeffrey A. Camarati