WEST POINT, N.Y. – The Lehigh women’s basketball team (12-9, 5-2 PL) overcame an 18-point second-half deficit to tie the game with 5:11 left and had a chance to tie or win the game at the end of regulation, but fell short 66-64 at Army (10-12, 3-4 PL) Sunday. It was the second straight game in which the Mountain Hawks came back from at least a 16-point deficit. Four Mountain Hawks finished in double figures, led by senior Emily Gratch’s 16 points, 12 coming in the second half.
Trailing by 16 at halftime, Lehigh used a 17-4 run out of the break to get back in the game. Army extended its lead down the stretch. Lehigh trailed by six with 1:45 to go but went 4-of-4 from the free throw line to cut the deficit to two with 41 seconds left.
After Lehigh gave up an offensive rebound on Army’s possession, the Mountain Hawks were forced to foul. But the Black Knights missed the first of the one-and one, giving Lehigh a chance to tie or win with nine seconds left but the Mountain Hawks were unable to get a clean look.
Lehigh shot 61 percent in the second half and finished the game 49 percent from the field including 29 percent from behind the arc. The Mountain Hawks held the Black Knights to 33 percent in the second half as Army finished the game 42 percent and 33 percent from three. Both teams were stellar from the free-throw line with Lehigh going 11-of-13 and Army 11-of-12.
Army held the slight edge on the glass, 31-30 but the Black Knights had 10 offensive rebounds to Lehigh’s five. Army also took advantage of 17 Lehigh turnovers, converting them to 16 points while the Mountain Hawks had just eight points off 13 Army turnovers.
Lehigh trailed 10-9 with 15:51 left in the first half as the Mountain Hawks were paced by O’Reilly’s four points. The Mountain Hawks made six of their first nine baskets but still trailed 20-16 with 11:53 to go as Army was shooting 50 percent including 3-of-4 from behind the arc.
It was then Lehigh’s turn to get hot from three as juniors Mary Beth Egan and Kelly Peterson hit back-to-back threes to give Lehigh a 24-23 lead with 8:24 to go.
Army then responded with a 7-0 run to retake the lead, 30-24 with 6:22 left. O’Reilly finally put an end to the run with a steal and a layup with 4:47 for the Mountain Hawks’ first field goal in almost four minutes.
The Black Knights then went on another run, this time scoring 12 straight points to end the half as Lehigh trailed 42-26 at halftime. The Mountain Hawks managed just one field goal in the final 8:24 of the half as Army went on a 19-2 run over that time.
Lehigh shot 38.5 percent (10-of-26) in the opening half and 33 percent (3-of-9) from three while Army shot 51 percent (15-of-29) including 57 percent (4-of-7) from behind the arc. Lehigh was outrebounded 17-13 and the Black Knights were 8-of-8 from the free-throw line and the Mountain Hawks were 3-of-4.
Seven different Mountain Hawks scored in the first 20 minutes, led by Peterson and O’Reilly with six points apiece while Gratch added four. The trio was a combined 7-of-10 from the field while the rest of the Mountain Hawks were 3-of-16.
After Army scored to start the half to extend its lead to a game-high 18 points, Lehigh finally ended the Black Knights’ run as Gratch made a layup a minute into the second half. After Gratch made another layup, Williams completed a three-point play to cut the deficit to 44-33 with 18:00 to go.
Then Gratch had another layup for her eighth point of the half as the Mountain Hawks trailed 46-37 with 16:51 to go. It was the first time Lehigh’s deficit was in single digits since the 3:35 mark in the first half.
After Army called a timeout, Byorick came out and nailed a three to cut Army’s lead to six and then O’Reilly completed a three-point play for a 17-4 run to start the half as the Mountain Hawks trailed 46-43 with 15:42 to go
The Black Knights responded with a 10-4 run to extend its lead as Lehigh trails 56-47 with 11:45 to go. But Peterson nailed her third three of the game to stop the run and then freshman Sarah Williams hit a pair of free throws for five straight Mountain Hawks points. Gratch then made it seven straight for Lehigh as she converted a hook shot in close to cut the deficit to two with 9:26 left.
Army ended the run with a pair of free throws, the Black Knights’ first points in four minutes. Then Peterson hit a jumper and Gratch made another layup as Lehigh tied the game at 58 with 5:11 left.
The Black Knights then scored six straight points, including its first field goal in seven minutes, to regain the lead 64-58 with 3:23 left.
Alexa Williams scored four straight points for Lehigh as the Mountain Hawks trailed 66-62 with 1:14 to go. Army then turned the ball over and O’Reilly was fouled on the ensuing possession. She hit both to cut the deficit to 66-64 with 43 seconds left.
Army then missed a shot, but grabbed the offensive rebound as Lehigh was forced to foul. The Black Knights missed the first of the one-and-one as Lehigh had the ball, down two with nine seconds left but fell short.
Gratch, who played the final 8:34 of the game with four fouls, added five rebounds. Her 16 points came on 6-of-12 shooting as Gratch is now 12 points away from 1,000 for her career. O’Reilly added 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting and six rebounds. Peterson finished with 11 on 3-of-4 from behind the arc and Alexa Williams had 10 points and four rebounds as she is just one rebound shy of No. 21 on the All-Time Patriot League list and four away from No. 20.
Army was paced by Anna Simmers who had 28 points, 20 coming in the first half. Jen Hazlett added 17 points while Olivia Schretzman had 16.
Sunday’s game marked the 50th meeting between Lehigh and Army as the Mountain Hawks hold the all-time edge 27-23 including eight of the last 11.
Even with the loss, Lehigh still sits in sole possession of second place in the League, two games behind first and one game in front of Holy Cross, Navy and Army who sit in a three-way tie for third at 4-3.
Lehigh will next hit the court to begin the second half of league play on Saturday, February 4th at Holy Cross. The Mountain Hawks beat the Crusaders 75-60 the first time around on January 7th at Stabler Arena.