BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After battling back from an early 10-point deficit, the Lehigh women’s basketball team fell to La Salle on Tuesday afternoon, 49-48, on a last-second shot by the Explorers. Trailing by two, La Salle knocked down a three-pointer with six seconds left for the one-point victory, their first in Bethlehem since the 1979-80 season, snapping the Mountain Hawks’ three-game home winning streak over the Explorers.
"I thought we had opportunities to put the game away on the free throw line and with rebounding, but there were a number of different plays that would have made the difference today," said head coach Sue Troyan. "I was happy with our effort level and how our kids compete which has been consistent for us. They are going to go out there for 40 minutes and make it tough on anybody that they play."
The Explorers began the first half on a 13-9 run, and as the Mountain Hawks cut the lead in half to two after a layup off an offensive rebound by freshman Elizabeth Sharlow, La Salle promptly knocked down a trey to extend its lead to five at 16-11 with 13:21 remaining. The Explorers then took advantage of a few Mountain Hawk turnovers and scored the next five points to push their lead to as large as 10 at 21-11.
Trailing 23-13, freshman Kerry Kinek scored four-consecutive points to pull Lehigh within six before senior Kelly Peterson drained a three-pointer to cut the Explorers’ lead to just three. Then after a turnover, freshman Amina Affini got into the action with a long jumper to make the score 23-22 in favor of La Salle with 4:04 to play in the first half.
The Mountain Hawks entered halftime trailing 30-25, as Kinek tallied a team-high 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor and four blocks through the first 20 minutes, while Peterson added five points of her own. The Lehigh freshmen combined to score 15 of the first 25 points by the Mountain Hawks as Lehigh shot 43.5 percent as a team through the first half and out-rebounded La Salle 20-17. Turnovers continued to hinder Lehigh with the Mountain Hawks giving the ball away 12 times, leading to 11 points off of turnovers for La Salle.
Out of the break, Peterson knocked down her second three of the game and then capitalized on a missed jumper by the Explorers for a fast break layup to knot the contest at 30 apiece, forcing a La Salle timeout. Lehigh took the lead in the second half when Kinek connected on a fast break layup from sophomore Sarah Williams as the Mountain Hawks grabbed a 34-32 advantage as a part of a 9-4 run with 14:08 to play.
La Salle scored seven of the next nine points to retake the lead at 39-36 with 9:36 left on the clock, but two free throws by Kinek pulled Lehigh back to within one yet again. The Mountain Hawks retook a 40-39 lead at the 7:31 mark after junior Lindsay Hoskins dropped a layup in after posting up on the Explorer defense.
"We have to get better at our execution, but I thought that even in the second half we did better on the offensive end and took better care of the ball," said Troyan. "We also played better defensively which allowed us to stay in this one. It’s a game that we can’t hang our heads about. We have to get better and games like this will help us a lot in January and February."
The back-and-forth drama continued when after a three-point play by Brittany Wilson with 7:07 left to put La Salle up 42-40, junior Hilary Weaver’s finger roll knotted the score again at 42 apiece. After the Explorers took a two-point lead, Hoskins calmly stepped to the free throw line and knocked down a pair to pull Lehigh into a draw at 44 with 3:42 remaining.
With the score tied at 46 and 1:45 on the clock, Hoskins drained the back end of a pair of free throws to give Lehigh a 47-46 lead. Hoskins then stole the ball from the La Salle offense under the basket, forcing the explorers to foul senior Marybeth Egan with 11.5 seconds to play. Egan knocked down one of two free throws, but a fast break three-pointer from the top of the key by Williams gave La Salle a 49-48 lead with just six seconds remaining. Egan’s last second jumper never reached the rim as the Explorers were able to escape with a narrow one-point victory, their first of the season.
"We have a group that is going to leave it all out on the floor," said Troyan. "They believe in themselves and know they can win games and that’s our strength right now. I was real pleased with how they compete today and they show signs of the team they can be."
Lehigh shot 30.8 percent from the field in the second half, while Kinek finished with 17 points, five blocks and five rebounds, coupled with Peterson’s 12 points and eight boards. Lehigh and La Salle were even under the basket, each with 24 points in the paint, while the Explorers took advantage of offensive rebounds, outscoring the Mountain Hawks 12-9 on second chance points.
"I thought Kerry did a nice job around the basket with some athletic kids around her and she brought a lot on the defensive end with her shot blocking and presence in the paint," said Troyan. "Kelly gave us a tremendous effort on both ends of the floor and made a couple of big buckets while coming up with some key rebounds for us down the stretch."
Lehigh will now travel to West Long Branch, N.J. on the campus of Monmouth University to take on the Wagner Seahawks as a part of the Thanksgiving Challenge on Friday, November 23 at 4 p.m. Lehigh will return home on Sunday, November 25 at 2 p.m. when it hosts Monmouth inside Stabler Arena.
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