The Lehigh women's basketball team links arms during the national anthem before their Pink Out Game against Lafayette on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Stabler Arena. Lehigh was defeated, 68-63. (Alec Eskin/B&W Staff)

Rivalry foes take on an even greater opponent


On paper, the Lehigh women’s basketball team’s Saturday game against Lafayette seemed like business as usual: another rendition of The Rivalry with playoff seeding on the line.

However, Lehigh’s 68-63 loss came attached to a cause. 

Vibrant strikes of pink flashed throughout Stabler Arena. Fluorescent pink Lehigh jerseys and shoelaces streaked up and down the court while pink headbands lit up the Lafayette sideline. Lehigh’s second-leading scorer, sophomore forward Lily Fandre, who was sidelined with an injury, donned pink-dyed hair for the occasion.

Even the crowd for both sides donned shades of pink from the Stabler stands.

For Saturday’s game, Lehigh and Lafayette weren’t fierce rivals. They were allies, coming together to fight for a common cause: breast cancer research and awareness.

The Pink Out Game is an annual contest sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute.

In honor of the Pink Out Game, players and staff walked to half-court before tip-off, holding personalized cards. The cards read “I play for” with a name written below to commemorate a loved one impacted by breast cancer.

The tribute brought the rivals together, and as junior guard Ella Stemmer noted, brought a sense of unity amongst the Lehigh family.

“We got to run out and see (staff and alumni) repping their pink and Lehigh, and it was so special,” Stemmer said.

For Lehigh junior guard Colleen McQuillen, the opening moment and game echoed coach Addie Micir’s philosophy of how there is more to life than basketball.

“It was a moment to reflect on how much bigger everything is than basketball,” McQuillen said. “In general, it allows us to reflect and realize what’s important in life.”

Without Fandre’s offensive output, the game flow proved similar to the last meeting of these two teams with the opposite result. Lehigh came home with a thrilling 70-68 overtime victory in that contest.

The loss set Lehigh back to sixth in the Patriot League, leaving the Hawks in need of a final push if they want to earn a first-round bye or home-court advantage in the Patriot League Tournament.

Still, the team was focusing on far more than the Patriot League playoff push.

Close to 240,000 women and 2,100 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, with 42,500 of the total cases resulting in a casualty, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In those cases without a known cure, the survival rate fluctuates depending on the time of discovery, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Micir noted that the true meaning of today’s game went beyond the scope of what transpired on the court.

“There’s a lot bigger things to play for but the microcosm of the (Pink Out Game) sure does replicate that,” Micir said. “We talk about honoring that fight that women go through and a lot of families go through, so it’s a big deal to be able to do it – I’m really proud that we get to do it and celebrate it that way.”

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