Women's Basketball Edged By Lehigh, 67-65, In Patriot League Opener

Alex Smith

WORCESTER, Mass. – Lehigh sophomore guard Katie O'Reilly recorded a 17 point, 12 rebound double-double and hit the game-winning layup with one second on the clock to lead the Mountain Hawks to a 67-65 victory over Holy Cross in the Patriot League opener at the Hart Center on Saturday afternoon. Lehigh improves to 9-7 overall and 1-0 in the conference with its 10th straight win over Holy Cross, while the Crusaders fall to 8-8 and 0-1 in the league.

After a pair of made free throws by Holy Cross junior guard Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.), to knot the score at 63-63 with 1:10 left in the second half, freshman Lisa Mifsud (Erie, Pa.) stole the ball on the ensuing pass and gave the Crusaders a chance to take the lead. HC senior forward Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) narrowly missed the go-ahead three-pointer as Lehigh freshman Kerry Kinek scored on the other end to put the Mountain Hawks on top 65-63 with 23 ticks on the clock. Crusader junior forward Christine Ganser (Needham, Mass.) was fouled on the other end with nine seconds left and hit both free-throws to tie the score at 65-65. However, O'Reilly drove into the lane and converted her layup to give Lehigh the 67-65 victory.

Both teams went back-and-forth to begin the contest as the lead exchanged hands seven times and was tied once over the first seven minutes of action, with Lehigh ahead 10-9. Holy Cross took the 11-10 lead at 10:53 and pushed it to its largest margin of the game (13-10) with 10:09 on the clock on the back of a freshman Raquel Scott (Ridgewood, N.J.) layup.

Lehigh's offense then caught fire and exploded on a 17-2 surge over the next six minutes to give it the 27-15 lead with 4:25 left in the first half. The Crusaders scored six straight points over the next two minutes to trail 27-21, as Smith scored four points during the run. However, the Mountain Hawks ended the half on a 5-1 rally to head into the locker room with the 32-23 advantage.

After the intermission, HC got some momentum and was able to cut the deficit to four on two occasions over the first six minutes of play. The Crusaders then worked it to two points (41-39) at the 13:04 mark of the second half on a three-pointer by sophomore Ashley Cooper (Colts Neck, N.J.). Lehigh countered with an 11-4 rally to gain the 52-43 lead with 10:29 on the clock. Holy Cross battled over the next five minutes as it went on a 10-2 run to trail Lehigh by one (54-53) at 5:33. The Crusaders knotted the score at 56-56 just over one minute later with a layup-and-one by Mifsud.

After Lehigh scored on the other end, Mifsud drilled a three-pointer to give Holy Cross the 59-58 lead (3:15). Both teams traded baskets on their next possessions, but a three-point make by the Mountain Hawks gave them the 63-61 edge with 2:02 on the clock. Smith would hit her free-throws a minute later to set the stage for the dramatic last minute of action.

Lepley led Holy Cross with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Smith and Cooper each had 13 points apiece. Mifsud scored six off the bench for the Crusaders as Ganser chipped in with five points and three rebounds. In addition to O'Reilly for Lehigh, Kinek had 13 points, while freshman Becky Guman scored 10.

Holy Cross shot 41 percent from the field (25 of 59), while the Mountain Hawks went 23 of 61 from the floor (38 percent). The Crusaders connected on 6 of 20 from downtown (30 percent) as they also shot 61 percent from the foul line (11 of 18). Holy Cross held advantages in assists (16-13), blocks (6-5), steals (11-9) and bench points (23-16). The Crusaders were outrebounded by Lehigh, 44-32, including a 14-8 margin on the offensive glass.

Holy Cross returns to action on Wednesday, Jan. 16, as it will host Navy in a rematch of the 2012 Patriot League Women's Basketball Championship at 7:00 p.m. The Midshipmen defeated the Crusaders 57-48 on March 10, 2012 in the conference title game.