With the sound of the final buzzer, College of the Holy Cross was the new men’s basketball Patriot League Champions.
As the Crusaders celebrated with joy on Lehigh’s home court, the Mountain Hawks shuffled to the sidelines. Before the Hawks headed off to the locker room to converse about the March 9 loss, members of the team stopped and lifted their heads toward the crowd. A variation of Lehigh students — from first-years to seniors —continued to cheer and support their team despite the loss. It was an act to congratulate the team on one of the most successful seasons the Hawks have had in years.
“Each game this season has been unique in (its) own individual ways,” junior center Tim Kempton said. “But this, the Patriot League Championship game, was by far the most memorable.”
Kempton said the atmosphere, the fan-filled arena and the camaraderie during the game against Holy Cross made it one of the best all season.
Although the Hawks fell short to the Crusaders 59-56, Lehigh walked away, accomplishing one of its season goals — making it to the Patriot League Championship. However, the team’s ultimate goal was the championship title.
“This season, the team really came together and bought into what we were trying to accomplish as a unit,” senior forward Justin Goldsborough said. “The fan support that came out during the tournament was definitely a plus. It’s great to see that the whole school was standing behind us, and it made a really big impact for us.”
While the Mountain Hawks ended the season with an overall record of 17-15, the team progressed significantly from the beginning of its season to the final game against Holy Cross.
“We had a good season overall,” senior forward Jesse Chuku said. “We started out a little slow, but once we got into a rhythm we were playing at a very high level.”
While the Hawks started out the season with seven consecutive losses, the team turned around and ended up stringing 11 wins in a row. Chuku noted the team hasn’t experienced a streak like this in a long time.
While the Hawks defeated teams like Boston University, Colgate University, Loyola University (Maryland), Lafayette College and Army West Point, Chuku said one of the most memorable games was Lehigh’s first game against American University back in January.
“I remember everything about this game,” Chuku said. “Everything was working perfectly, and we were executing every play offensively and defensively. We carried that momentum throughout the game.”
By the end of the game, the scoreboard read: Lehigh, 65, American, 50.
Kempton said the Hawks’ season opener against Syracuse University at the Carrier Dome was also one of the more memorable games of the season. Although Lehigh fell short 57-47, Kempton achieved his own success by obtaining his 21st career double-double. He had 16 points and 12 rebounds against the Orange.
With Lehigh scoring more than 2,000 baskets this season, Kempton also led the team in highest number of points, with a total of 514. He also earned his second consecutive NABC first team All-District honor as well as being named Patriot League Player of the Year. Most recently, he was named an Associated Press honorable mention All-American.
Junior guard Austin Price holds the second highest number of points with a total of 417. He also scored his 1,000th career point during Lehigh’s win over Army. One of the most improved players this season was sophomore guard Kahron Ross.
“On such a small team, everyone played a vital role this season, even those who did not play many minutes,” Chuku said. “Though, I think Ross and his improved play toward the final half of the season was key to our performance.”
Ross had 12 points in the Patriot League Championship game against Holy Cross and six assists. He holds the Lehigh record for most assists in a single season at 194. Ross also had the third-most points this season with a total of 358.
While the Mountain Hawks have improved this season in comparison to last season’s 16-14 record, Lehigh is not slowing down and will continue to strive for its ultimate goal of being named Patriot League champions.
Although its season has ended, Kempton said the team began lifts within the past week and that everyone is focused and energized.
“We will work hard and try to continue the legacy the seniors left behind,” he said.