Lehigh squeaks by Navy in first round
Posted: March 6, 2004
Upper Marlboro, MD – It wasn’t pretty, but Lehigh survived to play another day as the top-seeded Mountain Hawks outlasted No. 8 Navy by a 62-60 score in overtime in the quarterfinals of the Patriot League Tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday afternoon. Freshman Jason Mgebroff scored 19 points on eight of nine shooting to lead Lehigh on the offensive end, while senior Austen Rowland added 17, including the eventual game-winning three-pointer. With the win, Lehigh improves to 18-10 on the season, which is tied for the third most victories in school history. Navy ends its season at 5-23.
Navy came out emotionally charged, and built an early advantage. Lehigh managed to cut the deficit, but the Mountain Hawks never could overtake the Midshipmen. Navy built and eight point lead late in the half, which Lehigh cut to seven (28-21) at the intermission.
The Lehigh offense began to make its push early in the second half, and the Mountain Hawks were finally able to take a lead. However, the Midshipmen battled back and tied the game on a Jeff Charles free throw with just seven seconds remaining to force the extra session.
Head Coach Billy Taylor gave Navy credit for its effort. “You have to give Navy credit for their effort, they hung in there the entire game. Navy gave a great effort for (head coach) Don Devoe in his final game at the academy.” Taylor adds, “Our guys never faded down the stretch and we were able to pull it out.”
Rowland, playing his first game after receiving Patriot League Player of the Year honors, said that he didn’t feel any added pressure for this game. “That’s an individual honor, this is something totally different. I give credit to Navy for their toughness and the way they played.” Rowland adds, “I didn’t want this to be my last game, I’m a senior and I was not going to lose that game.”
Mgebroff was a force on the interior all afternoon and felt that his height was a great advantage for him. “Once I got the ball inside I could shoot fairly easy. My height definitely worked to my advantage today.”
The Mountain Hawks struggled all afternoon long, particularly from three-point range where they only connected on 2-14 shots. Lehigh hit just 35 percent from the floor overall for the game and turned the ball over a very uncharacteristic 24 times. To their credit, the Mountain Hawks did force 27 Navy turnovers. The Midshipmen were led in scoring by freshman Laramie Mergerson, the reigning Patriot League Freshman of the Week, as he hit nine of 16 shots on the day en route to a game-high 22 points. He also ripped down ten rebounds, which was second to teammate Chika Onyekannae’s 11 boards.
Navy missed crucial free throws down the stretch and it cost the Midshipmen the game. Navy hit only 13-28 from the free throw line, while Lehigh hit 20-31. Junior Earl Nurse pulled down a team high nine rebounds for Lehigh and fellow junior Nick Monserez had eight caroms.
Lehigh advances to the semi-finals on Sunday to take on the winner of the Holy Cross-Bucknell game. The contest begins at 5:00 and will be broadcast live on Oldies 1470-WKAP in the Lehigh Valley and around the world on the Internet at lehighsports.com.