BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Despite a game- and career-high 15 points including a career-high four threes from junior Marybeth Egan, the second-seeded Lehigh women’s basketball team (17-13) fell 64-59 Monday to the third-seeded and defending Patriot League Tournament Champion Navy (17-13). The Semifinal game featured seven ties and nine lead changes, but the Mountain Hawks were unable to find a basket in the final two minutes as Lehigh’s stellar season comes to end.
“Give Navy a lot of credit, they hit some big shots to win the game and came up with big stops on the defensive end,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “It was a well fought game and I’m real proud of how our team competed.”
The Mountain Hawks trailed by 11 late in the first half, but Egan hit back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to five at the half. Lehigh then cut the deficit to one less than a minute into the second half as the two teams battled the entire rest of the way. There were five ties and six lead changes in the second half.
Senior Aly Byorick hit a three to break a tie game with 12:21 left as Lehigh was looking to shift momentum its way. The Mountain Hawks were unable to take advantage however as they went scoreless for three minutes while holding Navy scoreless for four minutes. The Mids then took a three-point lead with 7:34 left but Lehigh stormed back with four-straight points off layups from seniors Alexa Williams and Emily Gratch to take a 54-53 lead with 6:08 left.
The teams went back-and-forth for the next three minutes as Lehigh again held a one-point lead with 4:27 to go. The Mids then scored four straight to take a three-point lead with 2:32 left to play. After a pair of offensive rebounds, Williams found Egan open who drained her career-high fourth three pointer to even the game at 59 with 1:59 to go.
Navy responded with a basket to take a two-point lead but then after Lehigh turned it over, Navy’s Audrey Bauer hit a three to put the Mids up five with 1:06 left. The Mountain Hawks missed a jumper and was forced to foul Navy, but the Mids kept Lehigh’s hopes alive after missing the front end of their one-and-one. Egan took a three that would have cut the deficit to two, but it rimmed out and freshman Katie O’Reilly was there for the offensive rebound but the Mountain Hawks were unable to score. Navy went on to miss four more free-throws, still leaving a small window open, but Lehigh couldn’t take advantage.
Lehigh finished the game shooting 36 percent (22-for-61) from the field including 43 percent (9-for-21) from behind the arc. Navy shot 47 percent (24-for-55) including 48 percent in the second half. The Mids also shot 50 percent (9-for-18) from three including 54 percent in the first half.
The Mountain Hawks outrebounded the Mids 42-34 including 19-12 on the offensive glass. Lehigh turned the ball over 14 times while Navy had seven turnovers and the Mids had a 20-3 edge in points off turnovers. But the Mountain Hawks helped negate that with a 29-5 bench points advantage.
Lehigh jumped out to a 4-0 lead to start the game, but Navy responded with an 8-0 run as Lehigh trailed 8-4 with 14:13 to go. Byorick broke a six-minute scoreless drought for the Mountain Hawks as she sparked the team with a couple threes off the bench as Lehigh tied the game at 13 with 11:36 left.
The Mids then caught fire, going on a 12-2 run over a five-minute stretch to take a 31-20 lead with 4:26 to go. Lehigh still trailed by 11 with 1:37 left in the half but Egan hit back-to-back threes as the Mountain Hawks went into the half trailing 33-28 with the teams combining for 13-for-20 from three (Lehigh 6-for-9, Navy 7-for-11).
Lehigh started the second half with a bucket and sophomore Hilary Weaver added a three to cut the deficit to one just one minute into the second half.
The Mountain Hawks went 4-for-6 from the field to start the half as Lehigh trailed 40-38 with 15:58 left.
Gratch then completed a three-point play to give Lehigh its first lead since very early in the first half as Navy was forced to call a timeout with Lehigh leading 44-42 with 13:33 left. Lehigh started 6-for-12 in the second half.
The teams continued back-and-forth down the stretch with each answering on the offensive end, but the Mountain Hawks came up short.
Along with Egan’s career night which included a career-high four rebounds, Gratch added 10 points, five rebounds and tied a career high with five assists. Byorick added nine points on three threes while O’Reilly tied her career high with eight rebounds.
Navy had all five starters in double figures, led by 13 points from Jade Geif and Erin Edwards.
The Mountain Hawks had swept the season series and won nine of 10 going into Monday’s game. The game marked only the second time in history that the two teams met in the Tournament. The first came on March 2, 1997 when #3 Lehigh defeated #2 Navy 70-62 en route to the Mountain Hawks’ first ever Patriot League Championship.
It marked the sixth straight year that Lehigh advanced to the semifinals and fourth straight year in which the Mountain Hawks hosted the game.