With less than a minute left on the clock in the Patriot League quarterfinal game, senior guard Kahron Ross shot a pair of threes to bring the Mountain Hawks within six points of Boston University.
Just two seconds later, he fouled out of the contest.
As Ross walked off the court for the final time in his Lehigh career, he received a standing ovation from the crowd that’s watched him grow into the leader and record-breaking point guard he is today.
“It felt great, but at the same time, it hurts a lot,” Ross said.
The Lehigh men’s basketball team’s season ended as the Mountain Hawks were knocked out of the Patriot League Tournament with an 88-82 loss to Boston U at Stabler Arena on Thursday night.
The Terriers (15-15, 11-8 PL) held the Mountain Hawks (16-14, 11-8 PL) 45.9 percent from the field and 32 percent from long distance.
Coach Brett Reed said while both teams were evenly matched entering the tournament, the Mountain Hawks didn’t play to their full potential.
“Tonight’s a night that we didn’t necessarily play well, and it’s unfortunate because you need to be able to perform at a high level when the stakes are high,” Reed said. “Offensively, we’ve had better games where we’ve moved the ball more quickly and cut more effectively, and, unfortunately, tonight we just weren’t as crisp and we just weren’t as sharp as normally we’d be.”
Lehigh hit double digits in fouls with 28 and turnovers with 15. Reed said the young team showed inexperience in tournament play by turning the ball over a lot.
Five Mountain Hawks scored in double digits, including Ross and sophomore guard Jordan Cohen with 17 each, sophomore forward Pat Andree with 15, and freshman center James Karnik and junior guard Lance Tejada with 13 apiece.
Cohen shot 7-for-12 from the field, while Ross and Andree both shot 6-for-10. Ross shot 4-for-6 from the 3-point range.
An Andree jumper started off the quarterfinal game to put Lehigh up by two. Almost as soon as the team gained the first lead of the contest, it lost it and never regained another lead as Boston U established its dominance.
With a last second Cohen jumper, the Mountain Hawks managed to pull within three points of the Terriers heading into halftime, 33-30.
Coming into the second half, Ross said Lehigh was focused on staying calm and not overreacting. He said while the team was down by three and didn’t take care of the ball the first half, the Mountain Hawks knew they had plenty of time to come back during the remainder of the game.
Boston U shut down that possibility, shooting 63 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from long distance in the second half.
With 7 1/2 minutes left on the clock in the game, the Terriers had their largest lead of the contest, gaining a 20-point advantage over the Mountain Hawks, 69-49.
Ross led a comeback attempt late in the second half with a pair of threes to bring the game within 82-76, but he – along with Cohen and Andree – left the game after fouling out.
With under a minute left in the quarterfinal game, the Mountain Hawks added two layups from Cohen and Tejada and a pair of Tejada free throws, but six Boston U free throws secured the Terriers’ 88-82 victory.
“We ran out of time,” Ross said. “We have to weather the storm.”
Reed said it was difficult addressing his team after its loss because his players played hard and well together as teammates who genuinely care about each other.
“They were just a joy to be able to coach,” Reed said, “and Kahron Ross was the model for that. This kid has been a terrific player for our program, but he’s someone who’s touched my heart, and to think that that’s the last time that I’ll have the chance to coach that kid, it’s just heartbreaking for me.”
While Ross’ Lehigh basketball career came to a close with the quarterfinal loss, and he said he’s going to carry on the relationships he’s formed with his teammates for years to come.
“I’m going to miss every part of it – being around the coaching staff every day, being around the guys, just being together,” Ross said.
Boston U men’s basketball coach Joe Jones described Ross as a “warrior” and said he’s had a great career and earned the honor of being the all-time career assists leader in the Patriot League.
Reed said Ross had a significant impact on Lehigh’s program and leaves a legacy that goes far beyond his performance as a player.
Looking forward, Reed said Ross helped set a positive course for Lehigh men’s basketball through the example he set as an unselfish, authentic, caring leader who bought into something that is bigger than himself.
“I’m pleased about what could be a promising future for Lehigh basketball,” Reed said. “But, that’s based on potential. We’re going to have to continue to take steps. Every single one of our players is going to have to take steps forward. I believe that we’re going to have to replicate that unity, that buy-in, that understanding that there are more important things than personal agendas, and that playing with the pride of Lehigh University is the No. 1 overarching and overriding sentiment of why we’re together.”
Losing sucks. Life is tough in the Patriot League. Hope the disappointment leads to more improvement next year.