Senior co-captain Becky Guman found sophomore Katie O’Reilly under the basket with less than a second on the clock in a tie game to give the Lehigh women’s basketball team its first Patriot League victory of the season over Holy Cross. O’Reilly collected her first double-double and set a career-high with 17 points and 12 rebounds as she again shined for the Mountain Hawks.
"It wasn’t how we drew it up, but Becky and Katie made the play and did a great job," said head coach Sue Troyan. "She’s (O’Reilly) is growing confidence in what she can do and she is a terrific player with a great dynamic."
Both teams began by trying to get a feel for one another as neither squad was able to jump start an offensive effort through the first four minutes as the score reached 4-2. After the Crusaders battled back to take a 13-10 lead after a layup by freshman Raquel Scott, the Mountain Hawks found their offensive stride, rattling off a 10-0 run that include five straight points from O’Reilly to take a 20-13 advantage with just over six minutes remaining in the first half.
A pair of Crusader free throws ended nearly a four minute scoring drought for Holy Cross and cut Lehigh’s lead down to five, but the Mountain Hawks kept up the scoring effort as O’Reilly added two of her five first half free throws to put Lehigh back up by seven. The Brown and White twice reached a 10-point first half lead, the first after the first of two first half treys by Guman to put Lehigh up 25-15.
The Mountain Hawks’ largest lead of the half came after a Hilary Weaver layup just two possessions later at 27-15. Holy Cross rallied to cut the score down to six at 27-21 following a 6-0 run, but Lehigh responded to end the half on a 5-2 run of its own to enter the break with a 32-23 advantage.
Guman’s 10 first half points led all scorers after the first 20 minutes, while O’Reilly added nine of her own and a team-best six boards. The Mountain Hawks shot 39 percent from the field and 37 percent from beyond the arc entering the break. Lehigh outscored Holy Cross 14-12 in the paint and 11-8 off of 10 Crusader turnovers. The Mountain Hawks and Crusaders changed leads eight times over the first 20 minutes, most of which coming over the first seven minutes of the contest.
The Crusaders started the second half on a 6-2 run to cut Lehigh’s lead down to 34-30, but the Mountain Hawks again responded with tough defense and clutch baskets to bump their lead back to 39-30 at the first media timeout.
Lehigh constantly responded to small runs by Holy Cross and after a pair of free throws by freshman Kerry Kinek, held a 54-47 lead with under eight minutes to play. The Crusaders knocked the lead back down to just one at 54-53 with under five and a half minutes left on the clock after a bucket by junior Alex Smith which forced Lehigh to burn a timeout.
A pair of clutch free throws by O’Reilly put the Mountain Hawks back up by three out of the break, but a hoop and harm by Mifsud knotted the game at 56 apiece with just over four minutes to play. An O’Reilly layup gave the Mountain Hawks a two-point advantage but three more points from freshman Lisa Mifsud put the Crusaders up by one on the next possession.
Junior Hilary Weaver answered that challenge with a jumper in the paint as the scoring went on the see-saw again and Lehigh took a 60-59 lead with under three minutes to play. Holy Cross again countered with a jumper of its own, but a huge trey by senior Sarah Pearce from the top the key put Lehigh back up by two at the two minute mark.
Smith tied the game again at 63 with a pair of pressure free throws and then stole the ensuing in-bound pass to give the Crusaders the ball with just over a minute left. The Mountain Hawks stood their ground with an air-tight defense to force a long three by Holy Cross and were able to grab the board.
Kinek converted on a layup under the basket to give the Mountain Hawks a 65-63 edge, but the Crusaders hit two key free throws to knot the game once again at 65 apiece. With seven seconds flashing on the clock, Lehigh in-bounded from a timeout and Guman found O’Reilly under the basket with under a second left for the game-winner.
Lehigh shot 37 percent from the field for the game and 35 percent from long range with five treys on the afternoon. O’Reilly, Kinek (13) and Guman (10) all reached double figures to pace the Mountain Hawk offense, while Lehigh collected nine steals and forced 13 turnovers on defense.
"This is another game in which different people stepped up in different ways," said Troyan. "It was a great team effort today."
The Mountain Hawks will be back in action on Wednesday, January 16 when they welcome American into Stabler Arena for a 7 p.m. tip.