ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Trailing 33-17 at halftime, the Lehigh women’s basketball team (12-8, 5-1 PL) shot 52 percent in the second half and held Navy (10-10, 3-3 PL) to 13 second-half points as the Mountain Hawks defeated the Midshipmen 50-46 Wednesday. Lehigh used a 14-0 run to get back in the game as it was paced by senior Emily Gratch and junior Kelly Peterson who combined for 22 second-half points.
“Give the kids credit, we told them to chip away and not try to do it all at once and they stayed with and played hard,” said head coach Sue Troyan. “We were finally making some shots and executed better in that second half, but our defense was really the biggest difference. We did a great job of contesting shots after Navy had a lot of open looks in the first half.”
The Mountain Hawks managed just four field goals in the first half as Lehigh trailed by as many as 16 with 8:43 to go in that opening half. The second half was a completely different story, however, as Lehigh was 13-of-25 in the field holding Navy to 4-of-21.
Trailing 36-22 with 16:22 to go in the game, Lehigh went on a 14-0 run over a six-minute stretch, 10 of those points coming from Gratch as Lehigh evened the score with 10:08 to go. The teams continued to battle as the score hung in the balance, tied at 40 for a two and a half minute span.
Junior Sarah Pearce then gave Lehigh its first lead of the game, knocking down a corner three with 4:33 left. Peterson then hit back-to-back threes to open up a nine point lead with 1:33 to go.
Navy showed no quit, however, responding with a pair of threes of its own as Lehigh hung on to a 49-46 lead with 58 seconds left. And after a Lehigh turnover, Navy had a chance to tie the game. The Midshipmen missed a three and after an offensive rebound, senior Aly Byorick came up with a steal for the Mountain Hawks.
After Navy fouled a few times to get into the bonus, freshman Katie O’Reilly knocked down the first free throw to give Lehigh a four-point lead with nine seconds left and seal the victory for the Mountain Hawks.
Lehigh finished the game shooting 32 percent and 25 percent from behind the arc while Navy shot 34 percent and 33 percent from three. Lehigh was outrebounded 38-32, but only turned the ball over 13 times while forcing 21 Navy turnovers which led to 26 points for the Mountain Hawks. Lehigh went 11-of-14 from the free-throw line while Navy was 7-of-9.
Lehigh got off to a slow start, trailing 8-2 with 15:39 left as the Mountain Hawks were just 1-of-9 from the field while O'Reilly provided Lehigh's lone basket. Lehigh then held Navy without a field goal for four minutes as Lehigh cut the deficit to 8-5, but the Midshipmen came right back with a 6-0 run as the Mountain Hawks trailed 14-5 with 11:51 to go.
After a Peterson jumper, Navy went on a 9-0 run to extend its lead to 23-7 with 8:18 left. O’Reilly ended the run with a pair of free throws and Byorick added two free throws of her own shortly after. Sophomore Hilary Weaver then nailed a three for Lehigh’s first field goal in four minutes to cut the deficit to 23-14 with six minutes left.
The teams exchanged baskets as Lehigh trailed 28-16 with three minutes to go, but Navy went on a 5-0 run to end the half as the Mountain Hawks were down 33-17 at halftime.
Lehigh went the final six minutes of the half without a field goal as the Mountain Hawks shot 14 percent (4-of-28) in the first half including 1-of-11 from three. Navy shot 46 percent (12-of-26) and 50 percent (4-of-8) from behind the arc. Lehigh scored almost half of its points from the free-throw line as the Mountain Hawks were 8-of-10 from the charity stripe. Lehigh was outrebounded, 25-14.
The Mountain Hawks only had four turnovers in the half, but couldn’t take advantage on the offensive end while the Midshipmen held a 14-4 edge in the paint.
Byorick and O’Reilly each ended the half with four points while Williams added five rebounds and a pair of assists.
Lehigh came out of the half strong on an 13-3 run, six of those points coming from Gratch as the Mountain Hawks cut the deficit to 36-30 with 12:53 left.
Peterson then added a basket to continue the run as Lehigh trailed by just four, then Gratch added a pair of baskets to even the score at 36 to cap off a 14-0 Lehigh run with 10:08 left.
Navy ended the run with a pair of free throws as the Midshipmen were held without a point for seven minutes and without a field goal for almost nine minutes. Lehigh would hang on in the closing minutes en route to the 50-46 win.
Gratch and Peterson both finished with 12 points while Byorick added seven. Williams had five points, eight rebounds and four assists.
With an offensive rebound with 17:47 to go in the first half, Williams became the 23rd student-athlete in Patriot League history to have 700 career boards. She ranks 22nd all-time with 707 and is just five rebounds away from overtaking the 21st spot and eight away from 20th.
Wednesday’s game marked the 46th meeting between Lehigh and Navy as the Mountain Hawks hold the all-time edge 25-21, including winning eight of the last nine. Six of those eight wins have come by four points or less.
Lehigh has now won five straight League games and continues to sit in sole possession of second place in the Patriot League.
Wednesday’s game was the first of three straight on the road for Lehigh as the Mountain Hawks next travel to face Army on Sunday at 1 p.m. followed by Holy Cross on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 1 p.m.