Back to the Finals: American 68, Lehigh 57 Mar 14, 2019 23:17:19 GMT -5
Post by notjuanjones on Mar 14, 2019 23:17:19 GMT -5
Wasn't pretty. Tournament games rarely are.
But AU persevered, once again, despite making just three field goals in the fourth quarter. relying on the fourth-quarter defense that's been a staple of this team all season. And they held off Lehigh to advance to Sunday's Patriot League final, at top-seeded Bucknell, at noon. It was the last home game at Bender for Cecily Carl, Elina Koskimies, Kaitlyn Lewis and Morgan Bartner, and they went out in style.
Cecily hit the first shot of the game, a three, and was off and running, en route to yet another double-double, with 20 points and 11 rebounds. AU led most of the way. But the Eagles couldn't pull away, in large part because the bigger Mountain Hawks hurt us all night on the offensive glass, with 11 offensive rebounds. Lehigh crushed us in second-chance points, 18-2. Six of those came in the first quarter, which Lehigh led 17-15.
Seven quick points by Jade to start the second quarter put AU back up two, and we ran the offense well throughout the period, breaking down Lehigh's zone for good shots. Kaitlyn and Katie were both good probing their defense and getting to the rim . But Lehigh was equally efficient, and we couldn't shake them; after scoring 10 of 14 to take a 34-28 lead on Cecily's three with 4:53 left in the half, Lehigh closed to within 36-35 on a Mary Clougherty three at the 2:57 mark. We led 38-35 at the half.
Two baskets by Cecily early in the third left us up 44-39, but again, Lehigh came back. Five straight points from Gena Grundhoffer, including a three with 4:51 to go, tied the game again at 44. And we were already playing without Jade, who'd picked up her third foul just a couple of minutes earlier. But we got a big lift from T.K. Cleveland, who came into the game at 4:25, with the Eagles up two. TK has not played regularly this season. But Coach Gebbia turned to the junior when we needed a few strong, steady minutes. And TK delivered. In that 4:25 stretch, she grabbed two defensive rebounds and one offensive board; the offensive rebound set up a second possession, which ended with a Katie layup with 56 seconds left in the quarter for a 50-45 AU lead.
The fourth was a grind. But our defense saved us, again. After Grundhoffer made one of two from the line at 9:42, neither team scored for three-plus minutes. We got a break when Lehigh's Hannah Hedstrom missed two free throws with 7:30 left, and finally scored when Katie drove the paint for two. Grundhoffer split two more from the line with 6:06 left; Katie made two of two at 5:48 to make it 54-47. Things got tighter after Cecily missed a great look at a three, and Lehigh's Hailey Pascoe drained a triple with 4:20 remaining to make it a four-point game. But with the shot clock winding down, Kaitlyn made a strong right-handed drive, then stepped back for a left elbow jumper with 3:48 to go, and a six-point AU lead. Cameron Buhr's putback of her own miss 26 seconds later kept Lehigh within four, but Cecily made two of two at 3:08 to keep us up six.
Buhr kept it a four-point game with two free throws, but Pascoe fouled Kaitlyn off the ball with 2:39 to go, and she made two of two for a 60-54 lead. Break number two came when Buhr missed both free throws with two and a half minutes left, Lehigh started fouling, and Jade made two of two at 2:27 to make it 62-54. We missed a couple down the stretch, but we never gave them a real shot at getting back in it; we held Lehigh to 2 of 10 shooting from the floor in the fourth.
Cecily made 7 of 11 shots from the floor. Kaitlyn added 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting, with 4 assists, in 37 minutes; it may have been her best game of the season. Jade had 14 and 7 rebounds; Katie added 13 and 5, with 4 steals, including a couple of huge ones in the fourth. We shot 47 from the floor and managed to close the rebounding gap to 33-31 by game's end. We held Lehigh to 39 percent (21 of 54) from the floor.
We're now 22-9, and winners of 18 of our last 19. The only team that's beaten us since New Year's is Bucknell. We get one more shot at them, for all the marbles. Should be fun.
On to Bucknell!