The women’s basketball team opened its 2015-16 season this past Friday, falling to the Lehigh University Mountain Hawks 95-88 in overtime in Stabler Arena. Senior guard Jamiyah Bethune’s career-high 22 points and senior guard Sarah Olsen’s five three-point field goals were not enough to continue the programs 6-2 overall record over Lehigh.
“It was a shame we came out on the losing end. We forced 25 turnovers, got 100 shots off, matched Lehigh with points in the paint and only turned the ball over 11 times. We played Monmouth basketball…” said Head Coach Jenny Palmateer.
The Blue and White came out with an early five-point lead, until Lehigh responded with a quick six points. Senior guard Jasmine Walker, junior forward Christina Mitchell and freshman gurad McKinzee Barker each made contributions for MU. In time, Lehigh took a 20-16 lead with minutes left in the quarter, but the Hawks ended the first quarter on top, 23-21.
Just under a minute into the second quarter Bethune netted six points, adding to the Hawks’ lead. Junior guard Tyese Purvis put up a pair of three-pointers while Bethune added 10 points for the Hawks, making it 37-25. Four fouls cost the Hawks’ eight points in free-throws, closing the gap for Lehigh. But once again, MU held the lead at the halftime break, 44-37.
The Mountain Hawks came out on fire as Lehigh’s senior guard Amina Affini eventually brought the game to 48-49 with a pair of foul shots. The Mountain Hawks tabbed 11 of the first 16 points in the third quarter. Barker put up nine points, bringing life back to the Hawks, raising their lead to 58. Purvis and Walker combined defensive steals and points to solidify the third quarter lead, 61-56.
Lehigh again threatened the Hawks’ lead in the fourth quarter, chipping away at the scoreboard. Olsen and Barker’s steals kept the Hawks in the action, along with Olsen’s three-pointer in the ninth minute. Lehigh maintained itsmomentum into the sixth minute, when senior forward Elizabeth Sharlow’s lay-up put the Mountain Hawks ahead 67-66. It was back and forth for six possessions until Lehigh earned the advantage.
With 1:07 left to play Lehigh’s sophomore guard Quinci Mann made a jump shot, maintaining the Mountain Hawks’ four-point lead. Suddenly, Mitchell put in a lay-up that would pull the Hawks to 79 with just seven seconds left. As the clock read 0:02, Walker made a crucial steal for the Hawks. Fouled in the paint, Walker had two shots to send it into overtime.
Both shots were good, as the Hawks pushed the contest into overtime, tied at 81. Mann opened up scoring for Lehigh, but Mitchell answered back with a three-pointer for the Hawks, making it 84-83. With just under two minutes left, Lehigh’s senior forward Kerry Kinek put the Mountain Hawks ultimately ahead with a three-point play. Walker and senior forward Danica Dragicevic were fouled in the final minute, adding three final points for MU, but the points were not enough. Lehigh’s junior guard Kayla Burton solidified the Mountain Hawk win at a final of score of 95-88.
“It [tonight] also showed that we can execute under pressure and understand time and score situations which will be a must moving forward…if we play with the same hunger and energy as tonight I believe this team can do great things,” said Palmateer.
Monmouth took 100 shots during the contest, finishing 34. But Lehigh had an overall higher shot percentage (47.6) to MU’s 34.0. The Mountain Hawks finished 83.3 percent on the free-throw line while MU hit only 62.5 percent. Along with Bethune and Olsen’s combined 48 points, Walker contributed 13, and Mitchell 12. Barker made her first collegiate appearance for the Hawks, netting nine points, nine rebounds, and three steals.
“We’re all eager to get out there on Thursday and get after it like we know we can,” said Bethune. “I think [tonight] was a great effort to start the season and it showed just how capable we are. Team morale is very high. It was a tough loss…but everyone played extremely well.”
The Blue and White return to the West Long Branch Multipurpose Activity Center when they host Robert Morris at 7 p.m. this Thursday.
PHOTO COURTESY of Taylor Jackson