BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – The Flying Dutchmen were front-runners. That is until they discovered how difficult it can be to play from behind.
On Wednesday night, within the friendly confines of Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium, an extended first-half scoring drought created a double-digit deficit for the Lebanon College women’s basketball team, and LVC never fully recovered, during a 60-50 setback to Lycoming. While the Flying Dutchmen went without a point for an agonizing 8:58 stretch that spanned the first and second quarters, LVC led only once all night, 2-0 on the first bucket of the contest.
The outcome snapped Lebanon Valley’s modest three-game win streak and represented their initial loss in Commonwealth Conference play this season. The Flying Dutchmen are now 4-5 overall and 2-1 in the circuit.
With the win, Lycoming improved to 6-2 on the year and 3-0 in the circuit.
“We needed to defend one possession at a time,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Amy Sokaitis, of the comeback recipe. “You don’t ever want to be in that position, but throughout the course of a season you know it’s going to happen.
“We needed to focus on the simple things,” continued Sokaitis. “Take care of the ball. Be patient. But we didn’t want our offense to dictate our defensive energy.”
Still very much in the game, but down 14-10 seven minutes in, the Flying Dutchmen began to struggle against the Warriors’ zone defense, with turnovers, poor decisions and bad shots. The result was 11 unanswered points for Lycoming and a 25-10 Warrior bulge.
LVC’s Emily Mealey stopped the bleeding late in the first half, but the Flying Dutchmen went to the break facing a 31-17 deficit.
“I remember just searching for our rhythm,” said Sokaitis. “We haven’t played against a lot of zones, and we couldn’t find the gaps in it. Zones make you stagnant and were stagnant along with it.
“I think we’ve been averaging 55 or 56 points a game,” added Sokaitis. “That’s not what we were expecting to do. The first quarter doesn’t bother me as much as the second when we scored seven points.”
On four different occasions in the third quarter, Lebanon Valley pulled to within nine points of the lead. The Flying Dutchmen then closed to within 52-45, with 2:52 to go, on a Megan Bisco jumper, and subsequently 56-50 on a baseline drive from Northern Lebanon product Cassiah Ray, with 28 ticks left.
But they would prove to be LVC’s last gasps.
“We’ve grown a lot since the first weekend of the season,” said Sokaitis. “But there’s still growth to be had. They’re (her players) getting there.”
Mealey pumped in a game-high 24 points on ten-for-17 shooting from the field, and she was joined in double figures by Bisco, who counted ten points. As a team, the Flying Dutchmen shot a frigid 35 percent from the field.
Lebanon Valley was guilty of 17 turnovers and was out-rebounded by Lycoming 45-38.
“The biggest thing is we’ve got to rebound harder,” said Sokaitis. “We knew that whoever won the rebound battle was going to win the game. It really came down to rebounds and turnovers.”
Lebanon Valley’s only lead came courtesy of Caroline Scarff’s opening basket. A pull-up from senior Anne Lehr in the middle of the first quarter moved the Flying Dutchmen to within 10-8 of the lead.
“We came in on a three-game win streak and we would’ve liked to have made it four,” said Sokaitis. “But this one’s over with. We’ve got to find a way to pick it back up.”
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