Lehigh women's basketball celebrates after defeating Boston University to capture a Patriot League Championship. This game was one of many notable games for Lehigh this season. (Courtesy of Matt Woolverton, BU Athletics)

Lehigh women’s basketball is going dancing

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Coming into the Patriot League Tournament, Lehigh was the No. 4 seed. Tonight, the Mountain Hawks defied all odds and captured the Patriot League Championship.

They defeated Boston University 64-54 in a thrilling title game. It’s a game that’s been eleven years in the making, which is the last time the Mountain Hawks got to hold that trophy back in 2010.

“It feels surreal,” said Patriot League Tournament MVP Emma Grothaus.

At one point in the season, the Lehigh women’s basketball team wasn’t even sure if they were going to finish out the season due to COVID-19 pauses and dealing with hardships off the court. Despite the adversity, they stuck together and were more motivated than ever to return to March Madness.

“All those ups and downs we went through as a team is a reason we are here today, “ Grothaus said. “We’re all so close and sisters on and off the court, and there’s no other team or people I’d rather do this with.”

For head coach Sue Troyan, this is her fourth championship.

“They’re all special,” Troyan said. “What makes each of them special is the kids we coach and the coaches you coach with. One of the most fun things about the last three days after the win at Bucknell was former alumni touching base with us and so excited that we were in the Patriot League Championship game. My phone was blowing up from alumni. I’m sure after this game, it will be much the same. This one will always be special because of the resiliency and challenges this group faced.”

In the first quarter, the Mountain Hawks jumped out to a great start and shot 52.6 percent from the field, while Boston University shot just 29.4 percent from the floor.

Lehigh finished the first quarter on an 8-0 run to put them up 23-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Despite their hot shooting in the first quarter, the second quarter did not go their way. After Frannie Hottinger knocked a jumper down with 7:36 to play to give them a 12 point lead, they were scoreless for six minutes.

Boston University ended the second quarter on a 5-0 run, with Emily Esposito hitting a last-second three-point bank shot. The Terriers outscored Lehigh 18-6 in the second frame to cut the deficit to 31-29 at the half.

Part of Lehigh’s lead was due to their 16 points in the paint. Usually, Lehigh is the one knocking down the threes, but the Mountain hawks only had two, compared to the Terriers five, so they looked inside to Hottinger, who had 12 points, and Emma Grothaus, who had 10 of her own in the first half.

Hottinger led this team with 21 points, while Grothaus finished with 12.

After the half, the Terriers came out storming. They hit four straight points and got their first lead since early in the first quarter.

The Mountain Hawks ended up taking the lead back and getting crucial three-pointers from Hottinger and Jamie Behar. They ended the third quarter on a 5-0 run to take a 47-39 lead.

Lehigh had a three-possession lead for most of the fourth quarter until a Katie Nelson jumper narrowed their deficit back to three. After that, Troyan called a timeout, and her team came out soaring. They hit eight straight points and held the Terriers offense scoreless for more than four minutes to capture their first title since 2010.

Troyan said they just have to do the same old stuff they’ve been doing to prepare for March Madness.

“People got to know we’re going to hunt threes, hunt layups, and hunt assists,” Troyan said. “We’ve gotten a lot better on the defensive end of things, and that’s going to help us as well. It’s going to be different, we leave on Tuesday, on a flight down to Texas, and they have to quarantine for 48 hours, but we’ve been in a lot of quarantines, so we know how to do that…. I think they’re looking forward to getting out of their dorm rooms.”

Tomorrow, the Lehigh women’s basketball team will find out who they’re playing in the NCAA Tournament.

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