Holy Cross Completes Stunning Run to Patriot League Men's Basketball Title - Mar 10, 2016
Crusaders hold off Lehigh 59-56 in Wednesday's championship for fourth straight road win. Cinderella comes from the Patriot League this March as #9 seed Holy Cross finished an unlikely run to the men's basketball title by holding on for a 59-56 victory at #2 Lehigh in the League Championship contest on Wednesday at Stabler Arena. The Crusaders (14-19) claimed their first Patriot League title since 2007 and added to their League record with a sixth championship overall. Holy Cross won four games on the road in its Patriot League Tournament run, beating #8 seed Loyola Maryland 72-67 in the first round on March 1, #1 Bucknell 77-72 in double-overtime in the quarterfinals on Thursday and #4 Army West Point 60-38 in the semifinals on Sunday to reach the title game. Holy Cross earns the Patriot League's automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament and will now wait to learn its destination for the postseason when the selections are announced on Sunday. The Crusaders are the lowest seed to win the Patriot League Tournament, surpassing the #4 for Lafayette last season. Holy Cross is also the first team to win four games in the postseason event. No team had won more than two road games or two games as the lower seed prior to this season, with the Crusaders winning all four of their contests in that manner. For the third time in their four League Tournament contests, the Crusaders had to go down to the wire for the victory. Holy Cross led Lehigh 55-46 with under four minutes to play, but the Mountain Hawks rolled off eight straight points to get within 55-54 with 1:21 to go. Malachi Alexander (6'7''-F) twice hit two free throws sandwiched around a pair at the line by Lehigh's Kahron Ross (5'11''-PG) as the Crusaders went up 59-56 with 26 seconds to go. Lehigh had four chances to tie the game on its final possession, but a pair of three-point attempts by Kyle Leufroy (6'3''-G) and two by Ross were off the mark as the Crusaders held on for the Patriot League title. Holy Cross never trailed in the contest, dominating the first half with its defense and going on a 15-2 run to go ahead 20-6 with 6:09 left in the period. Lehigh (17-15) trimmed the gap by halftime as the Mountain Hawks got within 25-14 at the break. The margin remained steady in the second half, with Lehigh getting the deficit down to four points on three different occasions only to see Holy Cross respond each time until the Mountain Hawks came up with the late run to set up the frantic finish. Malachi Alexander was named Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player as he led the Crusaders with 26 points and nine rebounds, and set the League tourney record for points (83) in Holy Cross' run to the title. Eric Green (6'4''-G) added 13 points for the Crusaders, and was named to the All-Tournament Team for Holy Cross along with Alexander and Karl Charles (6'6''-F). Holy Cross did most of its damage from long range with an 11-of-29 clip from beyond the arc, and only turned the ball over seven times in the contest. The Crusaders held Lehigh to 6-of-23 shooting overall and 1-of-7 from three-point range in the first half as they built the lead that they would never relinquish. Holy Cross was the first team to play, let alone win, four games in the Patriot League Tournament, which only expanded to a 10-team field when Loyola and Boston University joined in the 2013-14 season. With the extra game in hand, the Crusaders set League Tournament records for three-point field goals made (36) and attempted (94), assists (65) and steals (33). Tim Kempton (6'10''-C/F) led Lehigh with 20 points while making 8-of-10 shots from the field, while Leufroy added 13 and Ross scored 12 with six assists. The trio earned All-Tournament spots for the Mountain Hawks, who rebounded from their poor offensive first half to finish 21-of-55 from the field and 8-of-26 from three-point range. Lehigh also held a 35-25 edge on the boards in the contest. The Mountain Hawks had their 11-game winning streak snapped, which had been tied for the second-longest run in the nation heading into the contest. The contest also broke the Patriot League Championship attendance record as 4,587 fans filled Stabler Arena on Wednesday.
Courtesy of Patriot League
Patriot League Tournament Final: Holy Cross - Lehigh 59-56 Patriot League Tournament Semifinals: Holy Cross - Army West Point 60-38 Lehigh - American 78-62
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