Posted: 02/07/2012 | Last updated: February 7, 2012 at 06:20 PM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - After three straight road games, the Lehigh women’s basketball team (13-9, 6-2 PL) will return home to Stabler Arena to host American (16-6, 8-0 PL) Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Mountain Hawks are in sole possession of second place in the Patriot League, maintaining a one-game lead over Army and Navy and will look to pull within one game of first-place American. The Mountain Hawks will also look for a season-series split after falling to the Eagles in January.
Lehigh is coming of a thrilling 75-73 comeback victory at Holy Cross Saturday. The Mountain Hawks went on a 15-0 run over the final 5:29 while holding the Crusaders without a field goal for the game’s final 6:40. Junior Kelly Peterson’s three pointer with 1:02 left proved to the game winner as she was one of three players in double figures.
Peterson finished with 13 points while senior Emily Gratch had a season-high 18 points and senior Alexa Williams tied her career high with 23 points. Williams and Gratch combined to go 19-of-25 from the field. On a layup with 12:55 left, Gratch became the 15th player in Lehigh women’s basketball history to have 1,000 career points.
For her efforts against the Crusaders, Williams was named the Patriot League Player of the Week for the second time this season and of her career.
Williams has started all 22 games for Lehigh this season and leads the team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. Her 12.0 points per game rank sixth in the league while her 9.1 rebounds are first. She also ranks third in free-throw percentage (73.9), fourth in blocked shots (1.5), sixth in steals (1.6) and eighth in field goal percentage (42.5).
Through eight league games, she is averaging 14.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.
While Lehigh has the second highest scoring offense during league play (64.9 ppg), the Mountain Hawks’ offensive attack will be up against American’s league-best defense, holding opponents to 47.4 points per game. On the season, the Eagles have held seven opponents under the 45-point mark.
American also leads the league in steals at 10.9 per game and has recorded double-digit steals in 11 of its last 19 games including a season-best 19 in a win on January 28th over Lafayette. Lisa Strack leads the Patriot League with 2.6 spg. Alexis Dobbs is third with 2.0 spg and Ebony Edwards is fifth with 1.8 spg.
Offensively, American is led by Strack’s 11.8 points, which ranks seventh in the league, and team-leading 5.6 rebounds. Strack also leads the league in free-throw percentage (78.4). Alexis Dobbs, who is second on the team with 10.0 points, ranks second in 3-point field goals made (2.0) while shooting at a 35.0 percent clip from behind the arc.
Wednesday’s game will be the 30th all-time meeting between the schools as American holds the edge 18-11. In the first meeting on January 11th, the Mountain Hawks cut the deficit to two with 4:52 left in the game, but couldn’t get over the hump, falling 55-49.
Eight Mountain Hawks scored as Gratch led the way with 11 points while Williams had her fourth double-double of the year with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Last season, the two split its series during the regular season with each winning on the road before the Eagles ended Lehigh’s bid for a third straight League crown with an overtime win in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals. Two years ago, the teams also split their regular-season series en route to tying for first at 13-1 before meeting in the League title game won by the Mountain Hawks.
With a win Wednesday, Lehigh improve to 4-0 in home league games and 9-2 overall this season. The Mountain Hawks will also look to keep their streak alive of 22 straight wins in the month of February with Lehigh’s last loss coming to American, 65-56, on February 7th, 2009
Prior to Wednesday’s game, Gratch will be honored for her 1,000 career points and at halftime, the two-time defending Patriot League Champion Lehigh football team will be honored as the Mountain Hawks enjoyed one of its finest seasons in school history, going 11-2 and advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA FCS Playoffs.