Danny Newhart (@danny_newhart)
Senior day is designed to honor athletes who have spent four years playing a sport at their respective universities. It is generally scheduled late in the season as a home game, in the hope that the home team will earn a win and the seniors will have one last memory to take with them.
Apparently, Lafayette didn’t get the memo on Sunday afternoon.
Seth Hinrichs filled up the stat sheet for the Leopards, scoring 16 points, pulling down five rebounds, and dishing out seven assists, which tied a career-high. Dan Trist and Nick Lindner followed with 14 points apiece.
Going into Sunday’s contest, the Leopards’ field goal defense was at 45.7 percent. In addition, prior to the win, Lafayette had held only three teams to under 40 percent shooting all season: West Virginia, Fairleigh-Dickinson,and Division III Susquehanna University.
Lafayette put the clamps down on Lehigh, holding the Mountain Hawks to just 39.7 percent shooting. The Leopards also survived an early second-half storm from the Mountain Hawks en route to a 63-61 win, successfully spoiling Lehigh's senior day.
“It’s just something we emphasize,” Hinrichs said of the strong defensive play. “Holy Cross shot 50 percent in our last game, we didn’t want that to happen again. So to hold them below 40 is even better, that’s just something that we emphasize all the time, playing playoff basketball, getting big stops and big shots.”
After struggling to from the floor in the first half, Lehigh made a push coming out of the break. Sophomore guard Austin Price got it going with a 3-ball at the 19:48 to start the half. That shot ignited a 13-1 run, which gave the Mountain Hawks a 40-33 advantage and their largest lead of the game.
After that initial run, the teams would trade buckets for a majority of the second half. Point guard Nick Lindner provided the next big spark, hitting back-to-back threes then finding Dan Trist at the top of the key for a mid-range jumper at the 6:01 mark. That shot capped an 8-0 run and gave the Leopards a 57-50 advantage.
“I thought we did a great job of we lost a lead in the second half, they just came out on fire, just a lot of resiliency from our part and these guys did a terrific job of hitting some huge shots,” Lafayette head coach Fran O’Hanlon said.
After a quick timeout called by Lehigh coach Brett Reed, Lehigh would answer. Junior Justin Goldsborough got fouled and made one of two at the charity stripe, and an Austin Price mid-range jumper followed by an old fashioned three-point play from sophomore Tim Kempton brought the Mountain Hawks to within two at 59-57.
Goldsborough would step up again at the 2:54 mark, tying the game with a layup after snatching an offensive rebound. The teams would trade buckets, then Lindner’s mid-range jumper with 1:37 remaining would prove to be the game winner.
Experience, as well as learning from mistakes, Lindner said, was what gave his team the confidence it needed down the stretch of a tightly-contested ball game.
“I think that’s just from experience, we’ve got guys who have played in a lot of games, a lot of close games like that and we’ve learned from those games," the Germantown Academy grad said. "I think we’ve lost maybe two or three at the end of the game already in league play, and we’ve learned from those.”
Lehigh did have a few chances to force overtime. With 18 seconds to play, Lindner drove the lane and came up a bit short on a contested layup attempt.
Reed called timeout with 13.5 seconds left, and set up a play to get freshman Kahron Ross a good look from about 12 feet out. Ross missed, and following an offensive rebound and kickout to the corner, sophomore teammate Austin Price missed from about the same distance.
“Should’ve made it,” Ross said afterward. “It was a flat ball screen, I had a good look for one option, and the second option was the roller. But the first option was to create a play.”
Reed broke down the final play further as well.
““We wanted to give Kahron an opportunity to create. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite have a great separation on that shot, and it was fairly well-contested, so it wasn’t the perfect look that we were looking for but we figured we could space the floor, give him the opportunity to probe and create.”
With the Patriot League tournament coming up on March 3, O’Hanlon wants to avoid finishing in the bottom four of the league. However, he is doing his best to keep himself and his team from looking ahead and at the league standings too much at the same time. He believes in a more here-and-now type of approach, and believes the team is better off if it plays to win each game individually.
“I haven’t looked at anything, to tell you the truth,” O’Hanlon said. “All I look at is we have Colgate now, because we’ve got to take care of who we’ve got to take care. If we win, we’re not going to be at the bottom four, if we win this next game and whatever game is after that, I think we can avoid the bottom four.”
After Sunday’s loss, Lehigh falls to 15-12 overall, 9-7 in the Patriot League. Lafayette improved to 16-11 overall, 8-8 in the Patriot League. Both teams have two games left on the schedule; Lafayette hosts Colgate on Feb. 25 and Army on the 28. Lehigh takes on Bucknell at home on Feb. 25, then travels to Colgate on the 28 to close out the regular season.