WORCESTER, Mass. – The Lehigh women’s basketball team (13-9, 6-2 PL) went on a 15-0 run over the final 5:29 to defeat Holy Cross (13-10, 4-4 PL) 75-73 Saturday. Junior Kelly Peterson hit the game-winning three to cap the run as the Mountain Hawks held the Crusaders without a field goal for the game’s final 6:40. Senior Alexa Williams tied a career high with 23 points while senior Emily Gratch finished with 18 points, surpassing the 1,000 point career milestone.
“For any player, that is a real significant accomplishment and Emily has meant so much to the program. She has worked so hard and had a great career, though it’s not done yet,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “I thought we fought really hard today and found a way. We didn’t get many stops on defense early, but over the final six minutes, we really stepped up on both ends of the floor. The focus was getting the ball inside and Alexa and Emily did a real nice job scoring or finding the open player.”
Peterson, Gratch and Williams combined for 54 points while Williams and Gratch combined for 19-of-25 from the field.
In a game that featured the league’s top two scoring offenses, Holy Cross and Lehigh went back and forth throughout most of the game. The Crusaders built up a 13 point lead with 6:19 to go after a pair of free throws; those would be Holy Cross’ final points of the game.
Williams converted on a three-point play to cut the deficit to one with 2:55 to go. After the teams exchanged a couple empty possessions, Williams found an open Peterson who nailed a three from well beyond the arc to give Lehigh a two-point lead. Holy Cross then had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead but Williams was there for the steal to give possession back to Lehigh.
With an 11 second differential between game clock and shot clock, Peterson was forced to put up a jumper with the shot clock winding down. Holy Cross grabbed the rebound and with time ticking, rushed the ball up the court as a final attempt at a game-winning three hit off the rim.
Lehigh shot 48.5 percent from the field including 54.5 percent in the second half. The Mountain Hawks shot 30 percent from three. Holy Cross shot 46 percent including 40 percent from behind the arc. Lehigh was outrebounded 38-31 including 15-11 on the offensive glass, but the Mountain Hawks did a superior job controlling the ball as they finished with just 11 turnovers, four in the second half. Holy Cross had 15 turnovers.
The Mountain Hawks outscored the Crusaders in the paint 46-34 while Lehigh also did a good job of sharing the ball, as 25 of the Mountain Hawks’ 32 field goals were assisted, led by a career-high nine assists from freshman Sarah Williams who got her first career start. Eight Mountain Hawks had at least two assists for the game.
Lehigh trailed 11-9 at the first media timeout (15:50) as the Mountain Hawks were led by Gratch’s four points and a Sarah Williams three in the early going. The Mountain Hawks then went on a 10-4 run to take a 19-15 lead with 12:35 to go. Gratch and Alexa Williams dominated inside as the duo combined for 14 points of Lehigh’s 19 points.
The teams went back and forth, trading baskets with both Lehigh and Holy Cross shooting above 50 percent from the field halfway through the opening half.
Holy Cross led 24-22 at the under eight media timeout (7:31) and the Crusaders were still hanging to a 32-39 lead at the under four timeout (3:34) with both teams continuing to find and hit open shots.
The Crusaders extended its lead to six with 2:08 left. The Mountain Hawks scored four straight points on a Peterson layup and a pair of Alexa Williams free throws to cut the deficit to two but then Holy Cross hit a three at the buzzer as Lehigh trailed 40-35 at halftime.
The 35 first-half points by Lehigh is the most since it scored 41 in the first half on December 10th vs. Robert Morris.
Lehigh shot 42 percent in the first half while 13 of its 14 field goals were assisted. The Mountain Hawks were 3-of-12 from behind the arc. Holy Cross shot 52 percent including 4-of-9 from three. Lehigh trailed by a small margin on the glass, 19-17 while the teams combined for just eight free throws (Lehigh 4-of-4, Holy Cross 2-of-4).
Both teams did a good job of controlling the ball with Lehigh turning the ball over just seven times while Holy Cross had eight turnovers. Both teams also found easy baskets inside in the first 20 minutes as Lehigh and Holy Cross each had 20 points in the paint.
The Mountain Hawks were led by Alexa Williams and Gratch who each had eight points and Peterson added seven.
The teams started the second half where they left off, exchanging baskets until Holy Cross went on a quick 4-0 run as Lehigh trailed 52-44 with 13:22 left.
Then on a layup with 12:55 left, senior Gratch became the 15th Lehigh women's basketball player to reach 1,000 career points.
Gratch’s layup sparked an 8-2 run as Lehigh cut the deficit to 54-52 with 11:17 to go but the Crusaders stopped the run and then went on a 5-0 run of their own as Lehigh trailed 59-52 with 10:13 left.
Holy Cross continued to extend its lead as Lehigh trailed 67-58 with 7:28 left. Gratch then found open space for a layup inside and Peterson drained a three from the corner to bring Lehigh right back into it, trailing 73-65 with 4:47 to go.
O’Reilly then added a fastbreak layup and Gratch added another layup to continue the run going. Holy Cross called a timeout to try to slow things down, but Lehigh kept at it as Williams converted on a three-point play and would shortly set up Peterson for the game-winning three.
Gratch added eight rebounds, three assists and two steals while Williams had six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The win was Lehigh’s ninth straight over Holy Cross and is the Mountain Hawks’ fourth straight season sweep over the Crusaders. The Mountain Hawks last loss to Holy Cross was in the 2008 Patriot League Semifinals 46-44.
With Saturday’s win, Lehigh also improves to 22-0 in the month of February with its last loss in the month coming on February 7th, 2009.
Saturday’s game was the 52nd all-time meeting between the schools as Holy Cross holds the 37-15 edge.
Saturday’s game also marked Lehigh’s third straight on the road. The Mountain Hawks, which sit in sole possession of second place in the league, will return home Wednesday for a crucial game against first-place American at 7 p.m.