The American University women’s basketball team fell behind early and was unable to recover in a 58-42 defeat to top-seeded Lehigh in the Patriot League Championship Game Saturday evening in Bethlehem, Pa. The Eagles will now turn their attention to the WNIT, as the 64-team field will be announced late Monday night.
Second-seeded American (22-9, 13-1 PL) scored the opening bucket of the game on a Raven Harris three-pointer, although Lehigh (29-3, 13-1 PL) responded with a 13-0 run before a pair of Ebony Edwards free throws at the 13:52 mark got AU back on the scoreboard. The Eagles broke their nearly 10-minute field goal drought with a transition layup by Harris at the midway point of the half.
AU trailed by as much as 15 points in opening stanza, but an 8-2 run by the Eagles got the margin back within single digits, 24-15. Ohemaa Nyanin and Michelle Kirk each contributed four points during the spurt. The Mountain Hawks, however, pushed their margin to 12, 32-20, at halftime.
American’s Nyanin scored the opening bucket of the second half off a pass from Harris to get the deficit back to 10, 32-22. The Eagles continued to fight hard, and after four straight AU free throws, Lehigh’s lead was eight, 34-26, with 13:56 to go. But the Mountain Hawks responded with an 8-0 run to take a 44-26 advantage with 11:57 remaining.
American made one final push midway through the half, as Leer knocked down a jumper and then a pair of free throws to trim the advantage to 44-30. But Lehigh’s Alex Ross converted a jumper and then a back-breaking three-point play to take a 49-30 lead. Lehigh would end up winning by a final score of 58-42 to claim its second straight Patriot League Championship.
Leer and Strack were both named to the All-Tournament Team for the Eagles. Leer averaged 13.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in the three-game stretch, while Strack contributed 12.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per tournament contest. The duo each had a team-high eight points against Lehigh in the finals.
Harris added seven points, four assists, three rebounds and a career-best seven steals for AU.
Lehigh was led by Ross’ 13 points, five rebounds and five assists. She was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Tricia Smith contributed seven points and 11 rebounds for the Mountain Hawks.
Lehigh held AU to a season-low 22.5 percent shooting from the floor, including 2-21 from three-point range. On the flip side, the Mountain Hawks were an efficient 7-18 from beyond-the-arc, which proved to be a key difference in the game.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Lehigh. I thought they played exceptionally well," said American Head Coach Matt Corkery. "They came out firing on all cylinders and really got off to a good start. They made it tough for us, especially in the beginning of the game…They are well deserving of representing our league in the NCAA Tournament."
Despite the loss, the Eagles have earned their program-record third consecutive postseason appearance. AU will learn its WNIT First Round matchup late Monday night when the tournament bracket is released. All first round games will be played on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday at campus sites around the country.
2010 Patriot League All-Tournament
Liz Leer, American, Jr., F
Lisa Strack, American, So., G
Emily Gratch, Lehigh, So., F
Erica Prosser, Lehigh, Jr., G
Tricia Smith, Lehigh, Sr., G
2010 Patriot League Tournament MVP
Alex Ross, Lehigh, Sr., G