Posted: February 22, 2004
Bethlehem, PA – The first game between Lehigh and Lafayette this year was an instant classic. As far as Lehigh fans are concerned, the return game at Stabler on Sunday afternoon was even better. The Mountain Hawks moved into first place all by their lonesome in the Patriot League with a 78-73 victory over Lafayette in front of a record crowd of 5,206. Five different Lehigh players scored in double figures to lead the team to their first undefeated season (7-0) in Patriot League home games.
The atmosphere was electrice, and much like the first round in Easton, the game was close all the way through. The first half saw five lead changes and eight ties, as both teams traded baskets back and forth. Lehigh took a 35-32 lead into the break, even though Lafayette held the Mountain Hawks leading scorer Austen Rowland scoreless. His teammates picked up the slack though, as the Mountain Hawks bench scored 18 points to keep the team ahead.
In the second half, Lafayette would surge back ahead, taking their largest lead of the game at 55-49 with 14:12 left to play on a three-pointer by Winston Davis. But Lehigh came right back, getting a three-point play from Kyle Neptune and baskets by Rowland and Kevin Tempest gave Lehigh back the lead 56-55. The lead continued to see saw back and forth, and when Lafayette’s Rob Dill tied the game at 70 with remaining, it looked like the game might be headed back to overtime as it did a month ago in Easton.
With the game coming down to the wire, Lehigh looked to their team captain for an answer, and Rowland came through, hitting a three pointer with left to put the team up 75-71. Justin DeBerry then hit two free throws to make it 75-73, and all the Leopards needed to do was stop the Mountain Hawks to have a chance to sweep the season. They thought they did it too, as Rowland was stopped driving to the basket, but Dayne Mickelson tipped in the miss with remaining to ice the game for the Mountain Hawks.
Kevin Tempest led Lehigh with 13 points on the afternoon, becoming the ninth different player to lead the team in scoring on the year. Rowland had 12 second half points, and also chipped in with 7 assists. Mgebroff finished with 12 points and 7 boards, and Ra Tiah and Kyle Neptune has 11 and 10 points, respectively. Davis and DeBerry each had 15 points to lead Lafayette.
With the win, Lehigh improves to 17-8 (10-2), while Lafayette fell to 18-7 (9-3). With two league games left, the Mountain Hawks need only win one of two at Colgate and Holy Cross to clinch at least a share of the regular season crown.
The game with Colgate is set for on Friday Feb. 27, and audio coverage will be provided by Oldies 1470 AM WKAP as well as by Lehigh’s website at www.lehighsports.com.