The Lehigh women's basketball team huddles before practice on Nov. 4, 2019, at Stabler Arena. Lehigh defeated Holy Cross 75-57 on March 7 to advance to the Patriot League semifinals. (Julia Randolph-Flagg/B&W Staff)

Lehigh women’s basketball advances to Patriot League Semifinals

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Lehigh women’s basketball defeated Holy Cross 75-57 Sunday afternoon at Stabler Arena in the Patriot League Quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals for the third straight year.

Junior forward Emma Grothaus said it’s really exciting because it’s been such a weird season.

“Just to get to this point is awesome,” she said. “To be able to compete for a championship is even more amazing. I’m just so grateful to be here and to keep playing with this team—they’re so fun to play with.”

The start of the game was back and forth, but when freshman guard Mackenzie Kramer hit a jumper to put them up 13-12, they led the rest of the game.

While they ended up winning by 23 points, the Crusaders scored 14 points in four minutes to end the third quarter, cutting the deficit to eight to start the fourth quarter. The Mountain Hawks found their rhythm and stayed poised to hold on to the lead. Part of that was led by senior guard Mary Clougherty, who helped keep this team grounded with her leadership.

Holy Cross committed to running Lehigh off the three-point line early in the game, playing an extended 2-3 zone, which left open space at the foul line. While it worked early in the game, the Mountain Hawks ended up hitting 13 three-pointers, with four of them coming from freshman Jamie. Behar, who finished with 16 points, was the team’s second-leading scorer. Grothaus led Lehigh with 19 points and seven rebounds.

Behar said it was really exciting just to get in and help her teammates.

“It was really nice to know that I have the support of my teammates and my coaching staff here,” she said.

While some may have been shocked to see the freshman come off the bench and play like that, head coach Sue Troyan wasn’t.

“Jamie (Behar) is a great shooter,” Troyan said. “Her and I were having a conversation and were talking about how she’s due to hit five or six in a game. She’s been playing really well, playing with a high level of confidence….. It wasn’t really a surprise to me. She does it in practice every day. it was just a matter of her having the opportunities within a game and getting the ball in those situations. Not a better situation than today with Holy Cross playing as much zone as they did.”

Lehigh found the holes in the zone early, using the high post to attack the defense, getting points from Grothaus and Frannie Hottinger, who notched 14 points and seven rebounds.

Lehigh’s defense played a huge role in today’s win. They held Holy Cross to a 35.9 percent shooting percentage.

Lehigh shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, hitting six three-pointers, pushing their lead to 38-22 at halftime.

After Lehigh extended the lead to 21 points in the third quarter thanks to their hot shooting, the Crusaders came roaring back behind Power-Cassidys 26 point performance, the Patriot League Rookie of the Year, cutting the lead to 8 points at the end of the third quarter.

The Mountain Hawks closed the game on a 16-9 run to hold on to their second straight win.

Troyan emphasized how much adversity this team has faced this season and how it’s helped lead them back to the Patriot League semifinals.

‘Resiliency would be the word that pops up,” Troyan said. “When you look back at last year, we were going up to Boston to play in a semifinal game and that got taken away from us with a team that was playing with a lot of momentum. Then I look at the kids this year and everything they’ve endured to get here to this point just to have a season and going through the season with our COVID protocols. For our kids, it hasn’t been an easy road, but I think the adversity they faced through the last three or four months has prepared them well to get to this point.

Lehigh will look to ride off this momentum when on Thursday against the winner of today’s 4 p.m. contest with 1-seed Bucknell and 8-seed Loyola.

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