Posted: February 28, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh closed out the 2008-09 regular season in style on Saturday with a 71-60 victory at Stabler Arena. The Mountain Hawks finished 14-0 at home for the second time in school history (first time since the 1985-86 season), and completed the season sweep against Holy Cross for the first time in school history.
The Mountain Hawks wrapped up the season with a 23-6 record overall and 12-2 in the Patriot League, the most league wins in school history. Holy Cross finished the season with a 14-15 record overall including an 8-6 record in league play.
“This was a game the seniors really wanted to win,” senior guard Tricia Smith said on senior day in Stabler Arena. “Holy Cross singlehandedly ended our season a few times before, so it was great to pay them back today.”
Emily Gratch led the Mountain Hawks with a career-high 20 points, to go along with six rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals. Alex Ross chipped in with 18 points off the bench, as the Mountain Hawks started five seniors in the final home game of the year. Ryan Ingalls threw in one assist in her first start of the season.
“She’s been doing this for the last month and a half in practice,” Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan said about Gratch. “We have to give her a lot of credit because she was kind of buried in the post rotation the first part of the season. Her role developed over time and she made the most of it.”
With her four 3-pointers on Saturday, Ross finished the season with a total of 80 3-pointers, breaking the previous school record she set in 2007-08 (78).
Lehigh and Holy Cross were knotted at 34 at halftime, despite the Crusaders shooting 48.4 percent from the field. The Mountain Hawks made the most of their opportunities in the first, only turning the ball over six times in the half and making five-of-six free throws to stay in the game.
The Mountain Hawks exploded in the second half, outscoring the Crusaders, 37-26 in the period. The Brown and White used a 14-0 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 12-point lead with 6:45 remaining. Holy Cross was held without a field goal for 6:40 as the Mountain Hawks piled on the lead.
“I think our depth took its toll in the second,” Troyan said. “We don’t have a lot of kids playing a lot of minutes, and I think that’s going to help us in the tournament next week.”
Lehigh’s defense kicked into gear in the second half, holding the Crusaders to 33.3 percent shooting from the field, and blanked Holy Cross from the 3-point line, going 0-for-5 from downtown. The Mountain Hawks also forced 13 turnovers in the second half (21 overall) to put the game away late.
Lehigh clinched the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League Tournament on Wednesday and will play the eighth-seeded Colgate Raiders in round one at noon on Saturday.
“We’re real excited about the success and accomplishments of this team,” Troyan said. “But we still have bigger goals to achieve, so we don’t want to be too excited yet.”
Buzzer beaters: Lehigh honored its class of ’09 prior to the game, including Tricia Smith, Haly Crites, Melissa Rich, Ryan Ingalls and Courtney Molinaro…Following the game, former Lehigh players joined in an alumni game on the Stabler Arena court…Lehigh will host the first two rounds of the Patriot League Tournament from March 7-8, with the championship game taking place at the site of the highest remaining seed on Wednesday, March 11.
Watch the Lehigh - Holy Cross Post-Game Show