BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh women’s basketball team (21-10, 10-4) had its 10-game winning streak snapped in a heartbreaking 69-64 loss to American on Wednesday evening in the Patriot League Semifinals.
“American is a really talented team,” said Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan. “We really responded well to American’s big run, which says a lot about our team. Our players have competed all season long. I can’t say enough about this group. American just made a couple more shots than we did in the end.”
Alexa Williams had another stellar game for Lehigh, posting 18 points and 10 rebounds, her third-straight double-double. Erica Prosser netted 18 points and dished out six assists. Junior Emily Gratch added 10 points off the bench.
Lehigh started the game in dominant form, jumping out to a 13-0 lead and not allowing an American field goal until the 12:25 mark. Williams and sophomore Becky Guman scored on four of Lehigh’s first six points on assists from Prosser. Prosser then drained a three to make the score 9-0. Two free throws from Williams and a layup by Prosser off a steal capped off the Mountain Hawk 13-0 run to start the game.
Just as American seemed to be showing some life with two consecutive field goals, Prosser scored on a steal and layup and senior Kristen Dalton hit a three to give Lehigh an 18-4 lead with 8:10 remaining in the first half. At that point, all five Lehigh starters had already scored.
Later on in the half, Guman nailed a three with a defender in her face, to give the Brown and White a 27-11 lead. A Prosser three and put back by Williams gave Lehigh a 32-18 lead. American cut the lead to 10 in the closing stages of the first half. Lehigh held the ball for a last shot. Prosser fed a beautiful lob pass to Gratch, who put it in at the buzzer. Lehigh led 34-22 heading into the locker room.
The Eagles came out in the second half and scored the first 14 points as Lisa Strack hit two free throws and Liz Leer hit a baseline jumper off an offensive rebound. From there, American would go on to score 10 more points to take a 36-34 lead, their first lead of the game. Dentler ended the run and tied the game and 36 and eventually put the Mountain Hawks up 38-37. Prosser and Gratch then scored on layups to give Lehigh a five-point lead and forcing an American timeout.
The Eagles fought back though and took a 48-46 lead. Lehigh followed with 3-of-4 made free throws to tie the game up at 49. Williams was the factor in the final stretch, cashing in on two pick-and-roll layups to give the Mountain Hawks a 53-49 lead with 3:01 remaining.
With 1:57, Leer made a layup to cut Lehigh’s lead to 53-51. Dalton was defended aggressively on a layup attempt and was knocked down hard by the American defender. The Eagles grabbed the rebound and Leer was fouled on a three-point attempt on the other end. She made all three free throws to give the Eagles a 54-53 lead.
The Mountain Hawks continued to show their resiliency as they have all season long, as Prosser made a free throw to tie the game at 54. Leer missed a three on the other end and Prosser grabbed the layup and hit Williams on a transition pass. Williams made the layup with seven seconds left to put Lehigh in front. Dentler then was called for a tripping foul on Dobbs with one second left, sending her to the free throw line. Dobbs made both free throws, sending the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, American jumped to a four-point lead. But once again, Lehigh fought back and tied game at 60 when Williams scored four-straight points. Then trailing by one, Prosser made a layup to put Lehigh in front by one. American would score the final six points however, to give the Eagles a 69-64 victory.
With the loss, the Mountain Hawks will await their postseason fate. If Navy beats American in Saturday’s Patriot League Championship game, Lehigh would earn the automatic bid into the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). An at-large bid is possible as well, as Lehigh currently holds an RPI ranking of 96 according to NCAA records. The WNIT field is constructed of 64 teams.