BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Seniors Alexa Williams and Emily Gratch combined for 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting, but it wasn’t enough as the Lehigh women’s basketball team (13-10, 6-3 PL) fell 67-50 to American (17-6, 9-0 PL) Wednesday. Williams led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds while Gratch added 13 points and tied her season-high of 11 rebounds for her third double-double of the season.
“Alexa and Emily played really hard,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “American has been playing really well and they are a great defensive team. We struggled to handle their pressure. It was a combination of turnovers and just not getting a lot of clean looks. We just were unable to get into our sets.”
Lehigh trailed by just five halftime thanks to Williams and Gratch, whom combined for Lehigh’s entire first-half scoring. The Mountain Hawks - no strangers to comebacks this season - were unable to make a run however in the second half.
With the loss combined with wins from Army and Navy, Lehigh is now in a three-way tie for second place in the league.
The Mountain Hawks shot 37 percent (15-of-41) from the field including 27 percent (3-of-11) from behind the arc while American shot 42 percent (25-of-60) including 53 percent in the second half. The Eagles also shot 41 percent (9-of-22) from three. Lehigh outrebounded American 35-33 and also held a significant advantage at the free-throw line. The Mountain Hawks were 17-of-23 while American was 8-of-13 from the charity stripe.
Lehigh turned the ball over 26 times, 20 of which came off of American steals while the Mountain Hawks forced 14 American turnovers. The Eagles took advantage of those turnovers, outscoring Lehigh 32-10 in points off turnovers.
Lehigh got off to a slow start, trailing 7-3 at the under-16 timeout as the Mountain Hawks started one-of-7 from the field with four turnovers. Lehigh then went on a 4-0 run to even the game thanks to a pair of Gratch layups.
American came right back on 11-2 run to take an 18-9 lead with 7:37 left as the Mountain Hawks went cold, shooting 3-of-11 from the field while American was 6-of-18 in the early going.
Lehigh weathered the storm with a 7-2 run to the deficit to 20-15 with 3:30 left as Williams (11 points) and Gratch (4 points) combined for all of the Mountain Hawks’ scoring.
Williams and Gratch paced Lehigh for the entire first half as Lehigh trailed 24-19 at the break. The duo scored all of Lehigh’s points, led by Williams’ 11 points and seven rebounds. Gratch added eight points and six rebounds. The two combined to shoot 7-of-11 from the field while the rest of the Mountain Hawks were 0-of-11.
American was 9-of-30 from the field including 3-of-11 from three while Lehigh was 0-of-7 from behind the arc. Lehigh was outrebounded 20-17 including 8-4 on the offensive glass. Lehigh had 15 turnovers while forcing 11 American turnovers. The Eagles, which entered the game with a league-leading 10.9 steals per game had 11 at the half.
Thanks to Gratch and Williams, Lehigh had the edge on points in the paint 14-6. Lehigh also did a good job defensively on American’s leading scorer Lisa Strack, who entered the game averaging 11.8 points as she had zero points at the half.
Peterson scored the first points of the second half for Lehigh on a running jumper, the first player other than Gratch or Williams to enter the scoring column. But American then scored nine straight to open up a 35-21 lead with 16:34 left.
American continued the run on a pair of three’s to make it a 17-2 run as Lehigh trailed 43-23 with 13:00 to go. The Eagles kept the pressure on, turning Lehigh over and converting them to easy buckets as the Mountain Hawks trailed 50-25 with 9:30 left.
Lehigh managed to hit its first pair of three pointers for the game, but American had the answer and more as the Eagles led 65-39 with 3:25 to go. The Mountain Hawks went on an 11-2 run to end the game, but ran out of time, falling short.
Williams scored half of her points at the free-throw line as she was 8-of-11 from the charity stripe. Gratch was 6-of-11 from the field. Along with Williams and Gratch, freshman Sarah Williams added nine points on 3-of-4 from behind the arc.
American was led by 21 points from Alexis Dobbs who connected on six three-pointers while Jen Dumiak added 18 points.
Lehigh fell in the first game between the teams, 55-49 on January 11th.
Wednesday’s game marked the 32nd meeting between the schools as Lehigh dropped to 13-19 all-time. The loss also snapped Lehigh’s 22-game February winning streak with the Mountain Hawks’ last loss in the month coming on February 7th, 2009 to American. It was also Lehigh’s first league loss of the season, as it drops to 3-1 at home and 8-3 overall at Stabler Arena.
Gratch was honored before the game for her 1,000 career points, which she reached Saturday at Holy Cross. She became the 15th player in Lehigh women’s basketball history to reach the milestone. The football team was also honored, as the two-time defending Patriot League Champion Lehigh showed off its trophies.
Lehigh will next hit the road to take on Colgate Saturday at 4 p.m. The Mountain Hawks battled the Raiders to an 85-82 double-overtime victory in the first meeting on January 14th. Saturday’s game will be televised on Time Warner Cable Sports, shown live in Central and Northern New York and the Binghamton Area. The Rochester, Buffalo and Albany markets will show the game on tape delay.