BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Cat Nicholson established a new career high with 22 points, sinking a career-best seven 3-pointers, as Lehigh outlasted Holy Cross by a score of 84-75 in a double overtime thriller at Stabler Arena on Saturday afternoon. Nicholson also matched her career high of seven assists in the Mountain Hawks win. Lehigh improves to 7-10 on the season, while the Crusaders fall to 12-5. Both teams are 3-1 in Patriot League play.
"This was a really big win for us," said Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan after the game. "We kept telling our girls we could compete with anybody, and I’m so proud of how hard we fought all afternoon."
The Mountain Hawks came out gunning, and grabbed a 15-4 lead in the early minutes. Lehigh sank its first five three point attempts on the afternoon, and finished 13-24 (54%) from long range. Lehigh led for most of the first half, before the Crusaders took their first lead of the afternoon at 27-24 on a Jeannette Paukert 3-pointer with 3:39 remaining in the half. Paukert sank four 3’s on the afternoon, fouling out in the first overtime period with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Holy Cross built as much as an eight point first half cushion, and led 32-26 at halftime.
In the second stanza, Lehigh battled hard and had a number of key defensive stops, and several clutch shots. The Mountain Hawks erased an eight point second half deficit and held a 66-63 lead before Paukert nailed a three point basket with 1.9 seconds left to send the game into overtime tied at 66.
The two teams stayed close in the first extra period, and Holy Cross held a two point lead with 30 seconds to play. Lehigh sophomore Jana Ransom calmly hustled the ball up the floor, and drained a jumper from 15 feet out on the left side of the floor with 13 seconds to play. Ransom had a tremendous afternoon, recording her first career double-double of 20 points (one short of her career best), and a career high 11 rebounds.
Tied at 74, the two teams went into a second OT, where Lehigh pulled away. The Mountain Hawks came up big at the free throw line, and outscored the Crusaders 10-1 in the period, to pull away with the 84-75 win. Lehigh shot 70% from the free throw line on the day, while the Crusaders sank only 50% of their shots from the line.
In addition to the strong play of Nicholson and Ransom, Carli Toliver scored 17 points and drained a career-best five three pointers in the win. Anne Tierney recorded yet another double-double (nine on the season, one in all four Patriot League games), pouring in 10 points and yanking down 12 rebounds, for a career total of 784 boards. Tierney needs only five more rebounds to pass Jen Siemaszko as Lehigh’s all-time rebounding leader. Freshman point guard Chantal St. Laurent notched a career-best six assists in the win.
"We knew they were going to double down on Anne [Tierney], so Carli and I figured we needed to shoot well from the outside," said Cat Nicholson. "I’ve been that hot during practice, but never in a game before, though."
"We really wanted this win," Jana Ransom added. "This win gives us a lot of confidence going into the rest of the [Patriot League] schedule."
Holy Cross was paced by Katie O’Keefe’s 22 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Maggie Fontana added 19 points and 9 boards, and Amanda Abraham added 12 points in the defeat.
Saturday’s win marked only the second time ever that Lehigh defeated the Crusaders, with the other Lehigh win coming in the 1993-94 season. Holy Cross now leads the all-time series 26-2, and Saturday’s Mountain Hawks win snapped an 18-game Crusader winning streak in the series. The contest also marked Lehigh’s first trip to overtime since a game at Holy Cross nearly two years ago (a string of 48 consecutive regulation finishes for Lehigh).
Lehigh has now won two Patriot League games in a row, and will look for its third straight when the Mountain Hawks host league newcomer American at Stabler Arena on Wednesday afternoon. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 pm.
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