It was almost a week ago today when the Lehigh women's basketball team was denied their chance at an unprecedented three-peat. Taken to overtime by a scrappy American team and clutch G Alexis Dobbs free-throws, F Liz Leer took over with two gigantic 3-point bombs to advance the Lady Eagles - and not the tearful Lady Hawks - to the Patriot League finals at Navy.
It was then up to the Midshipmen to guarantee head coach Sue Troyan her third postseason trip in three years. A Navy win would mean a guaranteed spot for Lehigh in the WNIT - and they would deliver on Saturday with a 47-40 victory.
With the loss to American, a door closes for a third straight NCAA appearance for Lehigh - but another door opens as well. After drawing St. Bonaventure in the WNIT, Lehigh gets a great opportunity at something else - the first postseason victory in program history. (more)
“American is a really talented team,” Troyan said after the game. “We really responded well to American’s big run, which says a lot about our team. Our players have competed all season long. I can’t say enough about this group. American just made a couple more shots than we did in the end.”
You could have said those shots were Dobbs' free-throws, too, as the Morning Call's account tells us:
"There was a lot going through my mind," admitted Dobbs, a 77.6 percent free-throw shooter. "It came down to being do-or-die time."
"I'm still shaking," Leer said, "because my senior season, my last game, is in the hands of a freshman. But there was no one I was more comfortable with having at the line than our freshman point guard."
"This isn't what I expected to be feeling after this game," admitted senior G Erica Prosser, the most valuable player to ever put on a uniform for the women's basketball team. "It's hard to go out this way."
Hard to exit the Patriot League tournament, sure. But after Navy's win on Saturday, they learned that they wouldn't be playing their last game after all.
A few days later, late Monday night, Lehigh learned who they would be playing this Thursday: the Lady Bonnies of St. Bonaventure.
The Lady Hawks have played the Lady Bonnies twice in program history, with Lehigh winning both games. Last year, the Lady Hawks needed overtime to beat the 12-1 Bonnies in a 68-88 thriller in the Christmas City Classic, where five players fouled out, including Lehigh starters F Emily Gratch, F Courtney Dentler and G Tricia Smith.
With the score tied at 65 in overtime Dalton hit the game-winning jumper with 38 seconds left.
At the time, Prosser called it "the most nerve racking game that I’ve been a part of. It was a big win for us and it shows that our team can push through anything.”
Three of the starters in that game for St. Bonaventure will also be starting this Thursday: F Megan Van Tatenhove (14.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), G Jessica Jenkins (13.0 ppg, 40% 3-point shooting) and G Armelia Horton (5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg).
Like Lehigh, head coach Jim Crowley will use his deep bench early and often, and also like Lehigh the Lady Bonnies play stifling defense, only allowing 55 points a game.
It won't be easy - and the unfortunate timing means that their matchup will be happening at the exact same time as the Bucknell/UConn matchup on Thursday evening in the men's NCAA tournament.
It will take some juggling, but it's worth finding a way to listen to the game on 91.3 WLVR or Lehighsports.com with Matt Markus on the call. I may be splitting my attentions, but I'll for sure be multitasking on Thursday.