Mountain Hawks capture Patriot League crown
Bethlehem, PA (Sports Network) – Jose Olivero’s jumper with 3.9 seconds left
in the game lifted Lehigh to a 59-57 win over American University in the
Patriot League championship at Stabler Arena.
Austen Rowland, the 2004 Patriot League Player of the Year, scored 14 points
for the Mountain Hawks (20-10), who earned a berth in the upcoming NCAA
Andres Rodriguez had a game-high 16 points and Andre Ingram added 10
for American University. The Eagles (18-13) had their six-game winning
streak halted and were in the conference title game for the third
consecutive year. American was downed by Holy Cross twice before suffering the
two-point loss to Lehigh.
With one minute left in the game, the Eagles pulled within three at 57-54 on a
three-pointer by Rodriguez. Rowland then air-balled a three-point try and
American headed down the court.
Rodriguez drove the lane, made the layup and was fouled. He buried the foul
shot with 21.3 seconds left and the score was tied at 57-57. Lehigh wasn’t
phased and Olivero’s leaner with 3.9 seconds remaining made it 59-57.
“Jose’s a very mature basketball player,” Lehigh coach Billy Taylor said after
the game. “He’s made big plays for us all year. The team has confidence in him
and I told him we all feel he’s going to make that shot if he gets a look.”
Matej Cresnik’s desperation three at the buzzer caromed off the backboard and
the Mountain Hawks celebrated their first Patriot League championship.
After a Rowland basket gave the Mountain Hawks an early 7-5 lead, American
scored 11 of the next 13 points for a 16-9 advantage. Raimondas Petrauskas
ended the run with two foul shots almost eight minutes into the game.
Lehigh would close within two at 18-16 thanks to a 7-2 spurt. American pulled
away but the Mountain Hawks fought back and grabbed a 26-25 lead on Kyle
Neptune’s foul shots with 2:27 left in the half.
The remainder of the period was tightly contested with Lehigh clinging to a
30-29 lead at the intermission.
American grabbed a 39-36 edge early in the second half, but Neptune buried a
three-pointer to even the score at 39 apiece with about 11 minutes to go in
Lehigh then took a 52-45 lead with five minutes left on Dayne Mickelson’s
three-point play and Olivero’s three in succession. After the Eagles scored
five straight to pull within two, Rowland buried a three and the Mountain
Hawks had a 55-50 advantage.
“He’s meant an awful lot to the program,” American coach Jeff Jones said of
Rodriguez. “He had an outstanding season. We wouldn’t have even been anywhere
close (to the championship game) without his contributions.”