BETHLEHEM, Pa.Sophomore Maggie Burgess banked two points to put the Penn women’s basketball team ahead of Lehigh 54-53 with 15 seconds remaining. Despite controlling most of the game, the Quakers had allowed the Mountain Hawks back in the game with four made free throws in the final two minutes.
Penn began the season with a win, as it has the past three seasons. Lehigh fell to 1-1 on the season, Thursday night in Stabler Arena in Bethlehem, Pa. The Quakers defeated their in-state rival in a similarly exciting fashion last season in a 76-73 overtime thriller at The Palestra.
Senior leadership played an important role with tri-captains Joey Rhoads, Monica Naltner and Lauren Pears dominating the stats. Rhoads and Naltner co-led the Red and Blue with 18 points apiece. Pears anchored the Quaker defensive effort in a career night. Her six rebounds (five defensive) and eight assists set career game-highs for the guard who was sidelined with an injury last season. Pears also led the team with five steals.
Penn’s preseason emphasis on defense showed in the first half when Lehigh’s dangerous Andrienne Blount was not allowed a shot for 17:34 of the game. She made four free throws earlier in the period and was 10-11 from the line in the game. Blount led the Hawks with 18 points while Sara Ellis also scored in double digits with 11.
Lehigh tried to set a tone nailing a three-pointer just seven seconds into the game, but Rhoads nipped the Hawks’ 5-0 run when she was fouled shooting three at 18:51, made them all and then sunk another three at 18:33. She was 3-for-10 from beyond the arc in the game. The long shots were working for Penn with Naltner making 2-of-7 and sophomore Kelly Scott nailing a perfect 2-for-2, tying her career-high.
Penn shot 40-percent from the field in the first half and 38.9-percent in the game. Lehigh was more efficient in the first half shooting 43.5, but fell off in the second with 21.7-percent. Lehigh held the advantage with 20 free throw opportunities to Penn’s nine.
The Quakers continue on the road at Rider Sunday. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. Penn will open its home slate with Big 5 opponent La Salle, Tuesday at The Palestra.