If there is one thing you can say about the Lycoming College women's basketball team, it's that they play their best with their backs against the wall.
That was never more evident than it was last night, when the Warriors (10-11, 7-8 CC), scrapped their way to victory against the MAC Commonwealth's top-ranked Lebanon Valley (17-5, 11-4 CC), stunning the Flying Dutchmen in a spectacular 56-54 come-from-behind effort.
In a win it desperately needed, Lycoming sustained its playoff aspirations by playing level-headed basketball in the face of great adversity, while coming off of a two-game losing streak. The game spoke volumes about the Warriors' toughness, and showed why the other Commonwealth teams should be nervous about crossing paths with the Warriors in the post season, should they earn a berth.
Julia Antonelli, left, and Janelle Ziminski, middle, and Olivia Manges, third from front, celebrate Lycoming’s win over Lebanon Valley Wednesday at Lamade Gym. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"We are playing our best basketball at the right time, and today we showed what we are capable of," Lycoming assistant coach, George Henry, said. "We have been telling the kids they just need to finish. Tonight we finished and showed our resiliency by fighting through at the end."
After trading blows with the Flying Dutchmen throughout the first half, the Warriors went into halftime tied up 27-27, despite making no trips to the line in the game's first 20 minutes, and while shooting just 40 percent from the field.
They were keeping pace with Lebanon Valley, but the Warriors needed to step their play up in the second half if they were going to survive the game and continue their quest for the fifth and final spot in the MAC Commonwealth playoff tournament.
For a moment, it looked as though the Warriors might crumble under the pressure of playing the league's No. 1 team, after Lebanon Valley began the second half on a 5-0 scoring run that gave them a 34-29 lead just two minutes in. And even though Lyco was able to put that fire out, and draw closer to the Dutchmen's lead, they still seemed hesitant on the floor.
As the second half played on, that hesitance put Lycoming back in a big hole, as the Warriors went scoreless for nearly four minutes, which helped extend Lebanon Valley's lead by as many as many as 12 points with just 8 minutes of gametime remaining.
But as has been the case so often this season for the Warriors, when the going got tough, they got going.
In one of their most impressive defensive stands of the season, Lycoming held Lebanon Valley to just one point through the games last seven minutes, which helped them chip away at the Dutchmen's lead.
"I don't even know what happened," Lycoming head coach Christen Ditzler said. "We never let down, and we remained poised and chipped away. Before you knew it, it was a 2-point game. That just shows you how we kept our composure."
With just 13 seconds left in the game, Lycoming was able to earn its first lead of the half, when forward Julia Antonelli hit two free-throws after being fouled on a layup attempt. The lead came at the perfect time for the Warriors, who were able to fend off the Dutchmen's last attempt at a layup, and instead took the ball back down the court to score another point with a Janelle Ziminski free-throw that sealed the win.
LEBANON VALLEY (17-5, 11-4 CC)
Caitlin Bach 7-13 2-3 16; Kiely Chaklos 3-6 5-7 11; Peyton Carper 4-8 1-1 10; Lauren Ruhl 3-8 0-0 6; Bridget Rothert 1-5 0-0 3; Taylor Umbrell 1-4 0-0 3; Lexie Lantz 1-1 1-2 3; Hilary Yoh 0-0 2-2 2; Alyssa Cirucci 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 20-49 11-15 54.
LYCOMING (10-11, 7-8 CC)
Janelle Ziminski 5-8 1-2 14; Nicole Calella 4-9 2-2 11; Olivia Manges 4-10 0-0 10; Julia Antonelli 3-9 2-3 8; Ali Derr 3-7 0-2 6; Victoria Siebecker 2-5 0-0 6; Chelsea Henderson 0-1 1-2 1; Rachel Miller 0-0 0-0 0; Jenna Morgan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-49 6-11 56.
Halftime: Tied at 27 3-point goals-Lebanon Valley 3-11 (Rothert, 1-4; Umbrell, 1-2; Carper, 1-3; Ruhl, 0-2), Lycoming 8-14 (Ziminski 3-4; Siebecker 2-5; Manges 2-4; Calella 1-1). Fouled out-Derr. Rebounds-Lebanon Valley 31 (Bach 8), Lycoming 32 (Julia Antonelli 9). Assists-Lebanon Valley 14 (3 with 3), Lycoming 15 (Calella 5). Total fouls-Lebanon Valley 15, Lycoming 17. Technical fouls--None. A-276