March 9, 2009
Center Valley, Pa.--For the second time in the history of Patriot League women's basketball, rivals Lehigh and Lafayette will square off in the League Championship. Lehigh topped Lafayette in overtime in the other championship meeting between the schools. The Mountain Hawks and Leopards will battle at 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Lehigh's Stabler Arena with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. ESPNU will televise the game.
Patriot League Women's Basketball Championship Preview
2009 Patriot League Women's Basketball Championship Page
Lehigh And Lafayette To Meet In Patriot League Tournament Championship Game
A pair of rivals will meet Wednesday to decide the Patriot League Women's Basketball Championship. It will mark the second championship meeting between the schools. Lehigh defeated Lafayette in overtime to claim the 1997 title.
Lehigh became the first top-seeded team to advance to the Patriot League Women's Basketball Tournament Championship in three years with its 61-42 win over fifth-seeded Army in the semifinal round on Sunday. That followed a 78-54 opening round win against eighth-seeded Colgate. Lehigh was the only higher-seeded team to win in the Patriot League Quarterfinals. The Mountain Hawks will be making their first appearance in the Patriot League Championship since 2001. They will be pursuing their first title since defeating Lafayette for the crown in 1997. Lehigh, which has hosted the entire 2009 tournament, enters the championship round with a 16-0 home record. Junior Alex Ross has averaged 16 points per game in the tournament, while Patriot League Player of the Year Erica Prosser has averaged 14.5 points per outing in postseason play. Through two tournament games, the Mountain Hawks have outscored their foes by an average of 21.5 points per contest. The Mountain Hawks' 25 wins this season established a new school record.
Lafayette became the first No. 7 team to advance to the title game in the history of the Patriot League Women's Basketball Tournament. Lafayette, which lost its final 10 regular season games, upended No. 2 American and No. 6 Navy to reach the final round for the first time since 1997. The Leopards will be chasing their first-ever Patriot League crown on Wednesday. Lafayette has won just three games away from home this season, two of which have been in the Patriot League Tournament. Lauren Jackson, who scored 41 points in the entire regular season, scored 17 in the Leopards' semifinal win over Navy. Sophomore forward LaKeisha Wright, who hit the game-winning shot in the opening round against American, has led the Leopards with 13 points per contest in tournament competition. In the tournament, the Leopards are shooting a better percentage from the three-point line than the free throw line. Lafayette has made 50 percent of its three-pointers, but just 41 percent of its free throws.
Tickets to the 2009 Patriot League Women's Basketball Championship can be purchased by calling the Lehigh ticket office at 610-7LU-GAME (610-758-4263). Tickets can also be purchased online by visiting Lehigh's website at www.lehighsports.com/info/tickets.
Where To Find The Games
The 2009 Patriot League Tournament Championship game will be broadcast on ESPNU at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11. Bob Socci will handle play-by-play duties, while Leah Secondo will provide color analysis.
Patriot League Notebook
Champions By Seed
The number one seed in the Patriot League women's basketball tournament has been crowned champion 13 times in the tourney's 18-year existence. The number two seed has won twice, as has the number three seed. Bucknell became the first team to win as the fifth seed, doing so last season. The Bison were the lowest-seeded team to win the tournament since it began in 1991, a milestone that seventh-seeded Lafayette would break with a win in Wednesday's title bout.
See complete release for seeding history
Patriot League Tournament Coaching Records
See complete releases for tournament coaching records
It's Been Awhile
Prior to Lehigh reaching the 2009 Patriot League Women's Basketball Championship, it had been three seasons since the top-seeded team had reached the final round. The last No. 1 seed to reach the tournament was Army, which edged Holy Cross for the 2006 crown. In 2007, Bucknell was eliminated by No. 8 Colgate in the first round, while No. 1 American fell to Bucknell in last year's semifinals.
The Drought Is Over
Entering this season, Lafayette had the longest drought in the Patriot League between championship games. The Leopards went 12 years between championship berths. Lafayette also went eight straight seasons without a win in the tournament before the Leopards knocked off American in this year's quarterfinals.
Back To Stabler
The Patriot League Tournament returned to Lehigh's Stabler Arena for the first time since the 1996-97 season when the Mountain Hawks won their only League title to date. That year Lehigh hosted all three rounds of the tournament. Stabler Arena also hosted the first two rounds of the Patriot League Tournament action in 1992. Wednesday's championship game will mark the second time that Stabler Arena has hosted the final round of the tournament. Lafayette was defeated by Fordham in the 1992 championship tilt in Bethlehem.
Six For Eight
For the first time in Patriot League history, six teams posted eight or more League victories. It was just the fourth time in League history that six teams recorded at least six League wins. Six teams won at least six League games last season, as well as the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.
Patriot League Women's Basketball Day
In a joint proclamation, Bethlehem mayor John Callahan and Easton mayor Sal Panto declared Saturday, March 7, the first day of the 2009 Patriot League Women's Basketball Tournament, to be Patriot League Women's Basketball Day. The proclamation was made Feb. 25 at Hotel Bethlehem as part of a press conference announcing a partnership between Lehigh, the tournament's host institution, and St. Luke's Hospital & Health Center and the Bethlehem Area School District.
Top Ten Trio
Three active Patriot League players are listed in the top 10 on the League's all-time statistical charts. Navy sophomore center Cassie Consedine is eighth in career blocks in the Patriot League. She has 124 career blocks, 12 behind Lehigh's Jessica DePalo (2001-05). She is two away from establishing a new school record. Holy Cross junior Bethany O'Dell ranks fourth in the Patriot League annals in career three-point field goals with 215. She is five behind Colgate's Allison's Lipinski (2001-05) for third place. Lehigh junior Alex Ross is sixth in the same category with 198 career three-pointers.
Small Players, Big Numbers
Patriot League players have produced 46 double-doubles this season, including 12 by players under 6'. Navy guard Angela Myers is the shortest player in the Patriot League to notch a double-double this season. At just 5'5", Myers has produced five double-doubles, the third-highest total by a Patriot League player this season. She is the shortest player in the nation to record multiple double-doubles this season.
Now That's Progress
Of the eight Patriot League teams, five have matched or surpassed their win totals from last season. With 16 wins, Navy tallied nine more wins than last season. Only four teams in the nation have had a larger increase in victories than Navy this season. The Mids have also surpassed their Patriot League win total from last season with eight League victories, five more than a year ago. Colgate picked up five wins, four more than last season. Lehigh has also eclipsed its win total from a year ago, improving from 18 wins to a school-record 25 victories. With 19 wins each, American and Army both surpassed their win totals from last season by one apiece. Bucknell matched its 16-win season from a year ago.
Lifting The League
The Patriot League received a significant RPI boost in non-League play. The League is currently ranked 17th among NCAA Division I conferences, thanks in large part to Patriot League teams finishing with a winning record against opposing conferences for just the second time in League history. Patriot League teams closed the non-League portion of their schedules with a 61-57 mark, the best regular season non-League record in Patriot League history. The 2008-09 non-League mark tops the League's 1997-98 showing, in which Patriot League squads finished 50-49 in regular season non-League games. The 61 non-League regular season wins also established a new high, breaking the old mark of 52 regular season non-League victories set in 2006-07.
Prowling the Patriot League
Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons has more Patriot League victories than any other coach in the history of the League. Gibbons is the only coach in the League who has been with his team since the inception of the League. With the Crusaders' win against Colgate on Feb. 25, he became the first coach in League history to win 200 Patriot League games. In his 24th season at Holy Cross, Gibbons is 200-52 in Patriot League contests. The three coaches with the most Patriot League victories are among the League's active coaches. Lehigh's Sue Troyan has 102 Patriot League wins, while Bucknell head coach Kathy Fedorjaka has 98 career Patriot League triumphs.
High-Scoring Career Comes To A Close
Army senior Alex McGuire finished her career in Army's semifinal loss to Lehigh on Sunday. She closed her college career with 1,455 career points, the 17th highest career total in the history of the Patriot League. With her 11 points in the tournament, she passed Colgate's Malissa Burke (2000-04) and Bucknell's Lori Houck (1996-00) to move into 17th place. McGuire is also the third-leading scorer in the history of the Army women's basketball program.
Patriot League Tournament Semifinals
No. 1 Lehigh 61, No. 5 Army 42
Fifth-seeded Army (19-12) led for the entire first half, but a 17-2 run by top-seeded Lehigh (25-6) helped spark the Mountain Hawks to a 61-42 victory in the day's first Patriot League Tournament Semifinal. Army built leads as large as nine points in the first half, thanks to a stifling defense that limited Lehigh to eight field goals. Despite making just two field goals in the final eight minutes of the first half, Army maintained a three-point advantage heading into the intermission. Lehigh erased the deficit by scoring 17 of the first 19 points of the second half, seven of which were scored by junior guard Alex Ross. After shooting just 33 percent in the first half, Lehigh made 15-of-26 of its field goals in the second half. The Mountain Hawks also ratcheted up the defensive intensity, holding the Black Knights to just five field goals in 21 second-half attempts.
"Nobody doubted us when we went into halftime," said Lehigh senior Tricia Smith. "Looking up into the stands, I think everybody else was a little worried, but everyone in the locker room was positive that we would turn things around from the first half."
"That was just like a freight train in the second half, and we couldn't stop it," said Army head coach Dave Magarity. "In the first half, we had our traditional offensive drought, but we were somehow able to maintain the lead. We might have been better off if we hadn't. We seem to do better coming from behind."
Sophomore guard Erica Prosser led four Mountain Hawks in double-figures. The Patriot League Player of the Year scored a team-high 14 points, including 11 of Lehigh's 21 first-half points. Ross added 13 points, while senior Tricia Smith and freshman Emily Gratch contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively. Army sophomore Nalini Hawkins, who averaged 6.5 points per game during the Patriot League regular season, led all scorers with 21 points. Hawkins' 21-point effort followed her 23-point outing in the Black Knights' quarterfinal win against Holy Cross.
"This was our goal from the outset all the way back in August," said Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan. "We wanted to win a Patriot League Championship and move to the NCAA Tournament. Now we are just one step away. I am happy for this group of kids. This is an incredibly selfless group. In my 20 years of coaching, I have never had a group so unselfish."
Lehigh established a new single-season school record for victories, while also improving to 16-0 at home this season. Army's seniors finished their careers with 81 victories against Division I opponents, a new program record.
No. 7 Lafayette 62, No. 6 Navy 55
Seventh-seeded Lafayette became the lowest-seeded team to advance to the Patriot League Women's Basketball Championship with a 62-55 win over sixth-seeded Navy on Sunday at Stabler Arena. The Leopards outscored the Mids by 10 in the second half and took their first lead on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Lauren Jackson with 12:19 left in the game. Lafayette made 57 percent of its field goals in the final five minutes to secure the victory.
"This is just unbelievable," said Lafayette head coach Tammy Smith. "I remember coming into the press room after my first Patriot League Tournament game in 2002 after we had just gotten blown away. I know what a disgrace that was, and I promised that would never happen again. Even after a disappointing regular season, this team never lost faith. They all knew that this is the time that matters most, and they never stopped believing."
Jackson and senior guard Jessica Spicer paced Lafayette, as each scored a game-high 17 points. Spicer scored 14 second-half points, while 11 of Jackson's points came in the second frame. Sophomore forward Elizabeth Virgin added 12 points.
"I don't know if it has actually set in yet," Jackson said after the game. "I am just thrilled for our seniors. Even if I had been on the bench, I'd be thrilled right now."
"Even when people outside our team lost confidence in us, we all knew that we could win," Spicer said. "We came in here the last two games and played loose. We just wanted to have fun and play hard. [Jackson] told me before the last two games, `I've got that feeling, Spice.'"
Senior forward Whitney Davidson scored a team-high 12 points to pace Navy. Sophomore center Cassie Consedine added eight points and eight rebounds, helping the Mids out-rebound Lafayette, 39-30.
"I think we got beat," said Navy first-year head coach Stefanie Pemper, who helped her team win nine more games than it won last season. "We didn't beat ourselves. Lafayette doesn't look like a team that lost 10 in a row. You can really see the spirit that they play with, and the seniors have a lot to do with that. Spicer is one of the best leaders in the League."
Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinals
No. 1 Lehigh 78, Colgate 54
Top-seeded Lehigh (24-6) built leads as large as 27 points and never trailed in its 78-54 opening round victory over eighth-seeded Colgate (5-25) in the Patriot League Women's Basketball Tournament. Twelve different players scored for the Mountain Hawks, including three in double-figures, helping Lehigh advance to the semifinal round for the third consecutive season. The Mountain Hawks matched a school-record for victories in a season, tying the 1985-86 squad, which finished 24-4. Lehigh also remained undefeated at home for the season, winning its 15 straight at Stabler Arena. The Mountain Hawks have won seven consecutive games, while Colgate closed the year on a six-game losing streak.
Lehigh held the advantage inside, outscoring the Raiders in the paint by a 40-8 margin. The Mountain Hawks also held a 41-33 rebounding edge. Junior guard Alex Ross led the Mountain Hawks with 19 points. Ross made 7-of-16 shots from the field, including 4-of-10 from behind the three-point arc. Patriot League Player of the Year Erica Prosser added 15 points. Ross and Prosser added four assists apiece. Senior forward Melissa Rich contributed 11 points off the bench, helping the Lehigh reserves outscore Colgate's bench, 26-8.
"We thought that being unselfish was an important message for our team last season," said Lehigh head coach Sue Troyan. "With almost the same core of players back this season, we wanted to continue that message. Our players have been tremendous throughout the whole year. It truly has been all about the team."
"Their depth is what makes them so tough, particularly inside," said Colgate head coach Pam Bass. "What that does is it takes away the strategy of trying to get their post players into foul trouble. They are so deep that if you get one player in foul trouble, they can come right back with another player of the same caliber."
Colgate sophomore Tayler Wejnert, a midseason transfer from George Mason, led all scorers with 23 points. Wejnert was 5-of-15 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free throw line.
No. 5 Army 54, No. 4 Holy Cross 47
Fifth-seeded Army (19-11) took the lead with 5:45 remaining and held on for a 56-47 win over fourth-seeded Holy Cross (13-17). With the win, Army advanced to the semifinal round for the first time since 2006, when the Black Knights won their only Patriot League title. Holy Cross was eliminated prior to the semifinal round for just the second time in the Patriot League's 19-year history. The last time the Crusaders failed to reach the semifinals was in 2004, when they were ousted by Bucknell.
Army sophomore point guard Nalini Hawkins, who averaged 6.5 points per game during the Patriot League regular season, scored a career-high 24 points to lead all scorers. Hawkins made 8-of-15 shots from the field, including 5-of-7 from beyond the three-point line. Hawkins had made just 14 three-pointers in the Black Knights' previous 29 games. She also pulled down five rebounds and dished out four assists against the Crusaders.
"I thought Nalini Hawkins really came of age today," said Army head coach Dave Magarity. "She put us on her back and carried us at times."
Neither team built a lead larger than nine points throughout the contest. Army trailed with 8:44 remaining when Courtney Wright hit a jumper to tie the game. Army took the lead when Wright added a lay-up 20 seconds later. After two free throws by Holy Cross junior Briana McFadden tied the game with eight minutes left to play, Army regained the lead for good on a fast break lay-up by Hawkins.
"Our players showed a lot of toughness today," Magarity said. "I thought our seniors really answered in the second half."
"I said before the game that we needed to score in transition, and we did not do that," said Holy Cross head coach Bill Gibbons. "We didn't execute and we made a lot of silly mistakes."
McFadden led the Crusaders in defeat, scoring a team-high 15 points. She made 11-of-14 free throw attempts.
"A lot of people forget that we lost three starters for the season," Gibbons said. "If you look at our record, you might not know it, but this was one of our best years for coming together as a team."
No. 7 Lafayette 58, No. 2 American 56
No. 7 Lafayette (9-21) won its first Patriot League Tournament game since 2000 with a 58-56 upset victory over No. 2 American (19-11). Lafayette sophomore LaKeisha Wright made a leaning jumper just inside the paint with four seconds remaining to give the Leopards their first win since a Jan. 21 victory over Bucknell. It was just the second win away from home for the Leopards this season. It marked the fifth time in the history of the Patriot League that a team seeded seventh or lower has advanced to the semifinal round.
"These kids have been great," said Lafayette coach Tammy Smith, whose team had lost 10 straight regular season games to close the season before surprising American on Saturday. "I have always believed in them and I have always believed in them as ballplayers. We hung in there and made big shots and big stops."
Wright led all scorers with 19 points. She made 9-of-16 shots from the field. As a team, Lafayette shot 53 percent from the field, but the Leopards made just 3-of-16 free throw attempts. Also in double-figures for Lafayette were Elizabeth Garner and Elizabeth Virgin, who tallied 14 and 10 points, respectively.
"That's March and that's playoff basketball," said American head coach Matt Corkery. American, which defeated Lafayette in its regular season finale, closed the season with losses in three of its last four games. "We knew they would bring a tremendous amount of energy and tenacity. Tammy is a great coach and we knew they would be ready. Before the game, we talked about the intensity needed at this time of the year. I guess we did not take that message to heart as a team."
"I knew I had to make the winning shot and finish this game off," Wright said. "I tried to go right three or four times, but they kept stopping me, so I went left. They weren't guarding me at all to my left."
No. 6 Navy, No. 3 Bucknell
No. 6 Navy (16-14) won its first Patriot League Tournament game since 2004, taking a 53-51 victory against defending champion Bucknell (16-12). The Mids built a 10-point lead midway through the second half, but saw the margin slip to one point with less than three minutes to play. The win marked Navy's first win against Bucknell in the last 10 meetings between the teams, including two games earlier this season.
A three-pointer by Whitney Davidson stretched Navy's lead back to four points before a Cosima Higham lay-up pulled the Bison back within two points. Two offensive rebounds in the final minute allowed Navy to re-establish a two-possession lead. After a missed jumper by Angela Myers with 24 seconds left, Kalen Kropa corralled an offensive board, which was followed by a foul that send junior K.C. Gordon to the line. Gordon made the first of two free throws, and collected her a rebound off her own miss on the second. Gordon made two more free throws to extend Navy's advantage to five points with 14 seconds remaining.
Bucknell senior Amanda Brown gave the Bison a last glimmer of hope, knocking down a three-pointer with three seconds left to play. Bucknell was unable to foul Navy in the final seconds, however, preserving the win for the Mids.
Junior center Cassie Consedine missed two games and was limited in three more in the Mids' final five games due to injury, but the sophomore center paced Navy with 18 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes on Saturday. She made 7-of-10 field goal attempts, including a 3-for-4 effort from behind the three-point line. Davidson added 15 points for the Mids.
Senior Amanda Brown led Bucknell with 20 points in her final collegiate game. Sophomore center Cosima Higham added 13 points and 19 boards, one rebound short of a school-record. Navy shot just 35 percent from the field, but the Mids' defense held Bucknell to 17-of-62 shooting.