The Morning Call (Sunday)
Lehigh edges Leopards
Wilson hits 32-foot buzzer-beater for the win
A postgame Zoom press conference is a sign of the times and Lehigh coach Brett Reed had a parting point he wanted to get across.
“Bye everyone,” Reed said as he waved. “It’s too bad you can’t see me smiling right now.”
Saturday’s Patriot League opener for Lafayette and Lehigh was an overtime thriller witnessed by no fans inside Stabler Arena thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Leopards opening a two-point lead with 2.2 seconds left and the Mountain Hawks calling “game” at the buzzer.
Senior Marques Wilson was the hero, hitting a contested 32-footer while fading to his right as time expired.
Final score: Lehigh 90, Lafayette 89.
“I knew I had to get off a shot,” said an ecstatic Wilson, who totaled a team-high 28 points, including 23 in the second half and overtime. “I let it fly and it felt good leaving my hands, but with any shot like that, you never expect it’s going to go in.
“When I hit it, honestly, I was terrified because I knew my teammates were going to clobber me.”
“It’s basketball,” Leopards coach Fran O’Hanlon said. “These things happen. Anytime you get a shot upat the rim, you’ve got a chance of it going in. Hehad a pretty good shot. As he let it go, I thought it was going in. It was a great shot.”
Round 1 went the way of the Mountain Hawks.
Round 2 is Sunday at Lafayette’s Kirby Sports Center.
Leopards guard E.J. Stephens set up Wilson’s heroics with a hard-charging layup at the 2.2-second mark. Stephens, a junior, and senior Justin Jaworski form as good a backcourt as there is in the Patriot League. That duo combined to score 67 of the team’s 89 points.
Jaworski (37 points) and Stephens (30) connected on 23 of 39 shots from the field as a tandem and 16 of 18 from the foul line.
Lafayette led for 35:52 of game action, building its largest lead at 10 with 13:05 remaining.
Wilson, the Mountain Hawks’ only senior, headlined Lehigh’s comeback by scoring 16 of his squad’s 18 points during one second-half stretch. Reed’s Hawks turned a 64-54 deficit into a 72-67 lead in just over five minutes of play.
“I went into halftime a little frustrated,” Wilson said. “I knew I needed to be better in the second half.”
Nic Lynch, a 6-11 junior center, played Robin to Wilson’s Batman with 22 points and eight rebounds. Lynch carried Lehigh for long stretches in the first half. Jakob Alamudun contributed 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Mountain Hawks.
For Lafayette, Neal Quinn totaled 12 points and was the only Leopard besides Jaworski and Stephens to score more than five points.
“It’s a really tough way to lose,” Jaworski said, “but it only amounts to one loss and it’s one loss at the hands of a really tough shot. So, as much as it stinks to lose, it’s not something weshould panic about.
“We see them again [Sunday} and hopefully we can even the series up.”
Let’s run it back
Lafayette and Lehigh renew the rivalry at 4 p.m. on Sunday in Easton.
That matchup will be the second of four head-to-heads this season (under the COVID-19 altered Patriot League schedule). The teams meet again on Saturday, Feb. 6 (at Lafayette) and Sunday, Feb. 7 (at Lehigh).
Lehigh entered Saturday’s contest with a 9-1 record against
the Leopards in the previous 10 meetings.
Lafayette plays a back-to-back vs. Bucknell on Jan. 9 and Jan. 10; Lehigh plays two against American on the same dates.
Lehigh women rally late
Senior MaryClougherty scored 24 points to lead Lehigh to an 81-75 overtime victory over Lafay
ette in the Patriot League opener for both teams.
Clougherty, a 6-foot guard, tied the score at 68 with a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in regulation then at 75 with another clutch 3 with 2:06 remaining in overtime.
Lehigh, which trailed by as many as nine in the second half, scored the final nine points of the OT period. Clougherty put in the go-ahead two points with 90 seconds to play.
Claire Steele and EmmaGroth
aus contributed 15 points apiece for Lehigh.
Lafayette senior Nicole Kucowski, the league’s preseason player of the year, totaled 16 points, 21 rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and three steals. Drew Freelance led the Leopards with 17 points.
The rivals meet again at 2 p.m. Sunday in Bethlehem.