BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Lehigh women’s basketball team broke open a 21-21 halftime deadlock with a strong second half to down Army, 56-47, on Saturday night. The win clinches the #2 seed in the upcoming Patriot League Tournament and home court advantage through the semifinals. The Mountain Hawks will host seventh-seeded Bucknell in the quarterfinals Thursday night.
Saturday was Senior Night as Gratch, Williams, Aly Byorick and Kelela Blake were all honored prior to opening tipoff. It was Lehigh’s annual Play 4 Kay game to raise funds and awareness in the fight against breast cancer. For the 1,460 fans in attendance, one dollar was donated to breast cancer research and presented in remembrance of Debbie Pearsall ‘12, a former track and field student-athlete and friend of the Lehigh women’s basketball program.
“There was a lot of emotion in the game and it was a real special night for our program,” said Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan. “With our seniors being so close to Debbie, they along with the rest of the team were playing this game in her memory. And the underclassmen took Senior Day to heart and wanted to send them out on a win.
“Then there was the emotion of Play 4 Kay and raising money for breast cancer research,” Troyan continued. “That has meaning for our program as well. With all that emotion, I think that got the best of us the first five-to-seven minutes, but then we got real focused and settled in.”
Senior Emily Gratch led the way with 19 points and eight rebounds while senior Alexa Williams posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Becky Guman added eight points and six rebounds while junior Marybeth Egan scored a career-high five points in a career-high 31 minutes played.
“Emily and Alexa stepped up as you want seniors to and as they’ve done all year,” said Troyan. “They played really big for us. It’s always great to get seniors a win on Senior Day, especially to give us the #2 seed.”
Army’s Anna Simmers scored a team-high 20 points, while Jessica Waggoner also added double figures with 12.
The Black Knights got off to a hot start, scoring the game’s first eight points while opening up a 13-2 lead following a Waggoner jumper with 13:00 on the clock. The Mountain Hawks began to claw back, staging a 9-0 run capped off by a Blake layup off a nice feed from Gratch to make it 13-11 with 10:13 remaining.
Army came right back with an 8-2 run of its own to make it 21-13, but Lehigh held the Black Knights scoreless over the final 6:45 while scoring eight points to pull even at the half. Gratch scored four points in that stretch, including a layup with 1:01 remaining to make it 21-21.
The sides went back and forth early in the second, with Army going up 25-23 before the Mountain Hawks responded with a 9-2 run to go up 32-27 after a pair of Guman free throws.
Lehigh opened a seven-point, 36-29 lead after a Gratch layup, but the Black Knights came back with a 7-0 run to tie the score at 36 which began with a Simmers three-pointer and ended with a pair of Waggoner free throws.
The Mountain Hawks came right back with a 9-0 run, beginning with seven straight Gratch points and finishing with a Kelly Peterson fastbreak layup.
Lehigh went up nine following a pair of Williams free throws after Army head coach Dave Magarity was whistled for a pair of technical fouls. Army responded with a spirited charge, scoring seven straight over the next 4:02 to pull back within 47-45 with 2:05 on the clock.
But the Mountain Hawks had an answer, scoring nine of the game’s final 11 points, keyed by seven free throws over the final 1:01, to clinch the victory.
Lehigh finished 44 percent from the field (20-of-45) and 11 percent from three-point range (1-of-9). The Black Knights shot 35 percent (17-of-48) and 28 percent from long range (5-of-18). The Mountain Hawks won the battle of the boards, 36-22.
The second-seeded Mountain Hawks will host #7 Bucknell on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Patriot League Quarterfinals. Should Lehigh win, the squad would host the winner of #3 Navy and #6 Colgate next Monday (Mar. 5).