Lehigh men’s basketball prepares for Patriot League Tournament

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Lehigh Mountain Hawks sophomore center James Karnik scores a basket during the game against Navy on Feb. 9, 2019 at Stabler Arena. Karnik is fifth on the team in scoring. (Benjamin Wang/B&W Staff)

The Lehigh men’s basketball team will play Army on Thursday, March 7 in the quarterfinal round of the Patriot League Tournament. The Mountain Hawks are the No. 3  seed and earned a first-round bye.

After falling to Boston University in the quarterfinals last season, coach Brett Reed said the Mountain Hawks are looking forward to making a mark on this year’s NCAA tournament.

“The opportunity to represent the Patriot League in the NCAA tournament is something every player on our team dreams of,” Reed said.

Reed said staying in flow on offense by playing unselfishly and showing defensive consistency will be two vital factors to the team’s success.

Four players that will be key to the team’s tournament play are senior guard Kyle Leufroy, senior guard Lance Tejada, junior guard Jordan Cohen and junior forward Pat Andree.

Tejada and Leufroy lead the team in scoring, averaging 14.7 and 13.8 points per game, respectively. The duo has played in two Patriot League Championship games in their career and are expected to lead the team with their experience.

Assistant coach Harry Morra said the experience of the team’s leaders is something that will go a long way, especially with the intensity of play that comes with playing for a title.

“The biggest challenge to winning a Patriot League Championship is winning three games in a row,” Morra said. “They’re going to have to bring it, and they’re going to have to do it three straight times.”

Morra said this year’s roster is experienced and battle-tested, but performing on defense is the team’s number one priority.

However, the team depends on its younger players too. Sophomore center James Karnik averages 9.1 points per game and is fifth on the team in scoring average. Reed said the team relies on him heavily during games.

The coaching staff said the bench will play a crucial role in its next few games. Players like Karnik will be called on and expected to step up in big moments.

Cohen said the biggest key to getting to the championship is the building on momentum.

“Every practice, every game, show up with intensity,” Cohen said.

Cohen is looking forward to the “win or go home” aspect of the tournament and knows everyone on the team has the same mindset as him.

Cohen said he believes in the strength of the team’s shooting ability and attributes much of the team’s success to how it shoots the ball day in and day out.

“This year, we’ve been really close,” Cohen said. “On the court, we’re playing our best basketball when we trust each other.”

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