LHU: Lady Eagles get first playoff win in 28 years against ESU
By BILL ALBRIGHT
Express Sports Writer
LOCK HAVEN — When East Stroudsburg and Lock Haven faced each other in the opening round of the PSAC playoffs Monday night, the two clubs were anything but strangers to each other. It was their third meeting of the season.
For LHU, the Lady Eagles were hoping that history would repeat itself as the two teams split the pair of games, each winning on their home floor.
They battled and scrapped, and with a solid all-around effort, the Lady Eagles turned head coach Jennifer Smith’s hopes of a playoff win into reality as LHU prevailed by the final of 72-65.
For LHU, the playoff win was the first in 28 years for the program.
“I am really proud of the girls. They had to really fight for this win,” said a happy Smith. “It wasn’t easy because we had a lot of ups and downs along the way. But the good thing is that they stay focused, played together and pushed their way through the downs to get the win.”
In the first meeting, the Lady Eagles were led by a pair of sophomores in Ahnera Parker and Bink Redman, Parker pouring in 26 points while yanking down nine boards and blocking a pair of shots.
As for Redman, she has been a spark plug all season for LHU, the diminutive guard hitting for doubles with 10 points while yanking down eight boards.
In Monday night’s “rubber” game, Parker came up big again with 21 points and seven boards, while complementing her effort this time was freshman point guard Taylor Leidy with 20 points on the strength of an 11-for-15 effort from the charity stripe
Seven of Leidy’s foul shots came at “crunch” time down the stretch when the Lady Eagles were in the process of putting the game on ice.
“She (Leidy) is very mature for a freshman,” said Smith. “She comes from a high school program (Juniata Valley) where she has played in a lot of pressure games. They won a lot of games and she just knows how to win. She is not afraid to step up when the game is on the line.”
As the quarterback of the team, Leidy’s primary job is to run the offense. However, when called on to do other things, she has performed at a high level.
“I had twenty points? I didn’t even know that,” said a surprised Leidy. “I am more of an assist-player than a scorer. I want to get shots for my teammates. I don’t care how many points I have. It is all about the team and getting the win.”
The first half featured two periods during which neither team could establish separation from their opponent with LHU holding a 29-26 lead at the break.
“We have been through this (battling back) a lot this year,” said Smith. “They are fighters and the one thing I think they learned this year was how to win. They really didn’t have that before and when you figure out how to win you become a pretty good team.”
ESU opened the second half with yet another run that netted the Lady Warriors a 45-40 lead six minutes into the third period before taking a 49-46 lead heading home.
In the fourth quarter, a Parker putback gave the Lady Eagles a 50-49 lead before a trey by Nadia Romanchock pushed the LHU lead to 53-49.
The Lady Eagles extended their advantage to 67-60 with two minutes and change left in the game, and from there, Leidy took over from the charity stripe, enabling LHU to close the door on the Lady Warriors for the win.
“I have been in those tight situations before, even in high school,” Leidy said. “My team has always relied on me to make those foul shots so for me, it was kind of just getting job done.”
With the win, the Lady Eagles earned a return trip to Kutztown where they lost the regular season finale to the Lady Golden Bears.
“Playing good defense is where our focus was,” said Smith whose team held the Lady Warriors under 40 percent from the field. “When we play good defense we are much better on the offensive end. Saturday at Kutztown, we didn’t play any defense. Tonight we took the approach that if we play good defense, good things will happen on the other end. Maybe this time we’ll go in (against KU) and do a little something crazy that we haven’t done against them all year.”
Leidy agreed with Smith about the major factor in the loss to KU.
“If we play good defense against Kutztown, we can play with them,” added Leidy. “Down there, we didn’t play any defense at all. But if we play as a team like we did tonight, we have a good chance.”