Women’s Basketball Hangs On To Defeat Lehigh, 64-59

Ashley Cooper

WORCESTER, Mass. – Holy Cross co-captains junior Alex Smith (Delran, N.J.) and senior Amy Lepley (Norfolk, Mass.) scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, to help lead the No. 4 seeded Crusaders to a 64-59 victory over No. 5 seeded Lehigh in the first round of the Patriot League Women's Basketball Tournament at the Hart Center on Thursday evening. With the win, Holy Cross improves to 17-13 on the season, while the Mountain Hawks conclude their 2012-2013 season with a 14-16 mark overall.

No. 4 Holy Cross will host No. 8 Colgate on Monday, March 11 in the Patriot League Semifinals at 7:00 p.m., after the Raiders upset No. 1 Army this evening by a score of 48-40.

Both teams battled back and forth over the first four minutes of the contest as the score was knotted at 8-8 with 15:44 on the clock. Holy Cross, however, finally ignited its offense as it embarked on a 15-0 surge to grab the 23-8 lead with 9:41 left in the first half. Sophomore guard Ashley Cooper (Colts Neck, N.J.) connected on a pair of treys during the run as Lepley scored five points for Holy Cross.

The Crusaders kept the double-digit lead over the next four minutes, but Lehigh brought it to within eight points (27-19) at the 4:48 mark. Holy Cross freshman center Molly Hourigan (Memphis, N.Y.) scored a pair of layups to put the Crusaders on top by 12 (31-19), but Lehigh answered with five in a row to cut the deficit to 31-24 with 2:01 left in the first half. The Crusaders ended the stanza on a 4-2 run to head into the locker room on top, 35-26.

After the intermission, Holy Cross kept up its intensity, as it pushed the lead to 41-30 over the first five minutes of action. The Mountain Hawks, however, rallied with a 5-0 run to trail 41-35, but HC countered with a pair of treys by Smith and Lepley to go on top by 12 points (47-35) with 10:39 on the clock. Lehigh went on a 9-2 run over the next four-plus minutes to cut the deficit to five points (49-44) with 6:26 left in regulation.

The Crusaders would go back on top by double-digits, as they went on a 9-3 rally to gain the 58-47 advantage at the 2:49 mark. Lehigh would not go away easily, as it answered with a 7-0 run (58-54) to make the final minute of the contest interesting. However, the Crusaders would close out the last 60 seconds with a 6-of-8 performance from the free-throw line to claim the 64-59 triumph.

Smith finished the contest with a team-best 16 points and also had four assists, while Lepley had 15 points, five rebounds and three helpers. Junior guard Brisje Malone (Springfield, Mass.) had a great all-around game with nine points, a game-best six assists, and four caroms. Hourigan tallied eight points, while Cooper scored six. Freshman forward Raquel Scott (Ridgewood, N.J.) tallied three points and hauled in a team-high eight boards. Lehigh freshman Kerry Kinek led the Mountain Hawks with an 18 point and 10 rebound double-double (both game highs).

Holy Cross connected on 18 of its shots 53 from the floor (34.0 percent), as Lehigh hit 36.8 percent of its shots from the field (21 of 57). The Crusaders canned 31.8 percent of their shots from behind the arc (7 of 22) as the Mountain Hawks were limited to only 3 of 22 from downtown (13.6 percent). Holy Cross went 21 of 27 from the free-throw line (77.8 percent), as Lehigh shot 82.4 percent from the charity stripe (14 of 17).

The Crusaders held advantages in assists (16-14), steals (6-4), points off turnovers (10-6) and bench points (16-13).

Also during the game, Smith also set new Holy Cross records with 88 three-pointers made and 230 three-pointers attempted in a single season. This was the first win for Holy Cross as the No. 4 seed in the Patriot League Tournament and its overall record in the tournament now stands at 41-11.