A long 29-game season will culminate in the men’s basketball Patriot League Tournament.
The Mountain Hawks clinched a quarterfinal home game and a first round bye. Lehigh is the No. 2 seed in the league behind Bucknell University and will play No. 7 seed Navy in the quarterfinals after the Midshipmen beat Lafayette College 78-70 on Tuesday.
Lehigh is 1-1 against the Navy this season. The first meeting between the teams ended in a 69-64 defeat for the Mountain Hawks, ending their 11-game winning streak against Navy. The second time around, the Hawks redeemed themselves with a 77-74 victory as they shot 60 percent from the 3-point line, hitting 14-of-23 shots.
As the Mountain Hawks prepare to face Navy for the third time, they plan to use the momentum from their nine-game winning streak as well as the help from some key players on their team to guide them to the semifinals.
After a rocky start to this season with seven straight losses, the team has been able to make a complete turnaround and find its rhythm during the latter half of the season.
“The leadership on our team has changed in a dynamic way,” junior center Tim Kempton said. “Players are showing emotion and energy that the whole team is able to feed off of, so we’re just playing basketball and having fun. No one is looking to win the game for themselves, but for the team as a whole.”
Kempton was recently named Patriot League Player of the Year for the second consecutive time and was also named a First Team All-League selection. Joining him on the First Team All-League is sophomore guard Kahron Ross, who was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year and Third Team All-League last season. This is the first time in school history that two players were named First-Team All-Patriot League in the same season.
Other honorees on this year’s team include junior guard Austin Price, who was named a Third Team All-League selection and freshman guard Kyle Leufroy, who was selected to the All-Rookie team.
“Being added to the first (team) is a huge honor, but it hasn’t added any pressure on me,” Ross said. “We are all going to continue playing the way we’ve been, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Last year, the team found itself in a similar situation going into the tournament. It was seeded third in the league, got a first round bye and ended up facing No. 6 seed American University in the quarterfinals. It was also 1-1 against American in the regular season, but the Hawks ended up losing 68-62 in its quarterfinal game.
Though Lehigh’s season ended early in the tournament last year, the team has been able to come back again this season as a higher seed straight into the quarterfinals to face a strong Navy team.
“We certainly respect Navy a great deal,” senior guard/forward John Ross Glover said. “We know we’re capable of winning against them, but we’ve also seen what can happen when we come out unfocused. We plan to be ready to go from the jump Thursday.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Stabler Arena.