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Playing For Postseason, Volume 2: Hoops Edition

Lehigh athletes don't "play for pizza", but they do play for the postseason: the NCAA's, if you will.  And while the STAR will be focused on the EIWA nationals this Saturday and Sunday, that's hardly all that's going in in terms of postseason Lehigh action.


As EIWA's first rounds are completing, the Lehigh Lady Hawks will be attempting to qualify in a first-round game of their own up in their personal house of horrors, the Hart Center in Worcester, Mass - and if they win, they'll be rewarded with an early afternoon game on Sunday there, too - potentially against the home team.


And that's not even including both men's Patriot League semifinal basketball games, one at 1:00 at "that school in Easton" and the other a few hours after the conclusion of the EIWA nationals.


Please don't tell me you have something better to do this weekend.  (more)



Let's start with the women's basketball team, who have gratefully enjoyed the week off from last week's game, a 65-55 win over Holy Cross.  The kindness of the week off, however, is tempered by the hosted format of the Patriot League tournament, where the Lady Hawks will need to play two games in two days.

The Saturday game will be against No. 8 seed Bucknell, who (according to the game notes) have had no answer so far to sophomore F Emily Gratch, who has torched the Lady Bison for 44 points so far this year.  Almost as important as Gratch and junior G Erica Prosser (14.4 ppg, 4.1 apg for the season) is sophomore C Alexa Williams, whose defense on Bucknell's best player (junior F Joyce Novacek) was crucial in holding the Lady Bison to 47 and 41 points respectively.

If Lehigh gets past the first round matchup, they will either face off against No. 5 seed Army - or the home team, the No. 4-ranked Lady Crusaders.  No awards as to who the Lady Hawks would like to play on Sunday, and here's a hint: they're not the ladies wearing purple.

Lehigh's defense against Army in both games this year was simply outstanding, holding them to 40 and 39 points respectively.  Their win at the STAR was a 30 point blowout, and while superstar junior F Erin Anthony had a monster game for the Lady Knights up at West Point (11 points, 18 boards and 6 blocks) their effort wasn't enough.  If Army is their matchup Sunday afternoon, the key again could be Williams' defense underneath against Anthony.

But it's Holy Cross - who have always given Lehigh problems - that loom as a real threat to a second straight Patriot League championship game at the STAR.  Start with the fact that Lehigh has never beaten Holy Cross at the STAR in the postseason.  Follow by the fact that the Lady Crusaders have the sort of balanced scoring that could give Lehigh issues (senior G Briana McFadden, senior G Bethany O'Dell, and junior F Whitney Fremeau) and this could loom as a tough challenge.  Crucial will be the swarming defense on the perimeter with Prosser, senior G Alex Ross and senior G Tricia Smith.

On radio, Jeff Tourial will be doing the call for 91.3 WLVR and broadcast on Lehighsports.com.  The video will also be available on Patriot League All-Access.

*****

Could Sunday be any more packed?  The EIWA nationals, a potential second-round game for the Lady Hawks, and - oh by the way - two Patriot League semifinal games about 18 miles apart.

Lafayette, who dispatched No. 6 seed Colgate in the first round 73-65, unexpectedly became home hosts this Sunday when No. 7 seed Holy Cross traveled to Lewisburg and dispatched the Bison 67-64.  Starting at 1 pm, this No. 3 vs. No. 7 matchup could be better than the seeding might indicate: Sophomore G Mike Cavataio and junior G Andrew Beinert seem to finally be hitting their stride late for the Crusaders, with 39 of Holy Cross' 67 points.

However, "that school in Easton" has a pretty daunting advantage playing at the Kirby Center, where they are 12-3 this year.  Add to that sophomore G Jim Mower and sophomore F Ryan Willen seem to be hitting their stride too - with double-digits against the Raiders.  Add to that the fact that no No. 7 team has ever advanced to the Patriot League championship game - and on paper, this looks like a tall order for the Crusaders.

(Coverage will be on the Lafayette Sports Network (WBPH-60 and RCN 4) sports at 1 pm, featuring Gary Laubach, John Leone, Dan Mowdy calling the action.  The video will also be available on Patriot League All-Access.)

So Lehigh will know who the other finalist is as they take on No. 5 seed American at 8pm on Sunday.  Lehigh head basketball coach Dr. Brett Reed may very well be sending American head basketball coach Jeff Jones an extra-special Christmas card this year as his Eagles dispatched Navy 62-60, eliminating a player from the Patriot League Tournament (senior F Chris Harris) that torched Lehigh for nearly 70 points in the Midshipmen's two wins over Lehigh during the regular season.  It also happens to set up a American/Lehigh rematch of the 2004 Patriot League championship game - won by Lehigh - at the STAR.

Lehigh had a battle in the first round against - who else - Army, who had knocked out the Hawks in the first round each time the last three years.  The 64-45 final score, however, was very misleading: Lehigh trailed in this game until about 9 minutes left in the game.  Junior G Michael Ojo (13 points) and junior G Prentice Small (defensive stops) were crucial in Lehigh's win, where Dr. Hall decided to throw out the gameplan in the second half and go with a 4-guard lineup to force pressure.  It worked brilliantly.

That's not to say that Lehigh's road will be all that easy, with sophomore F Sean Lumpkins (29 points, 15 boards vs. Navy) and junior F Vlad "The Mad Romanian" Moldoveanu chipped in with 8 points and 8 boards.  If there's a day where we're going to need a double-shot of great play underneath with senior F Zahir Carrington and freshman F Gabe Knutson it's this Sunday.  Freshman F C.J. McCollum and senior G Marquis Hall will need to keep up with the 3-pointers too, of course: American allowed 11-of-33 from 3-point range vs. Navy.

It's one awesome weekend of Lehigh sports this weekend.  Coverage will also be on CBS College Sports at 8pm, featuring Bob Socci and John "The Last Amateurs" Feinstein calling the action.  The game will also be broadcast on AM 1230 and 1320 in the Lehigh Valley, starring Matt Kerr and Jeff Tourial and audiocast on Lehighsports.com.  The video will also be available on Patriot League All-Access.

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