ANNVILLE – There’s an old distance-runners adage that goes: ‘You run the first mile with your legs. You run the second mile with your head. And you run the third mile with your heart.’
In a regular season that more closely resembles a marathon than a sprint, the Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball team is currently operating on intestinal fortitude.
On Wednesday night at the LVC Gymnasium, the Lebanon Valley wasn’t necessarily ‘pretty in pink’, but won for the 11th time in their last 12 outings anyways, stopping Lycoming 62-55. The Flying Dutchmen stumbled a bit out of the blocks, then found their legs in the middle of the first half, before finishing the race with their heads held high.
Not only did the win send the ‘Pink Game’ crowd of 1,515 home happy, it also set up LVC’s Saturday showdown at rival Messiah, for first place in the Commonwealth Conference. The 19th-ranked Flying Dutchmen are now 19-3 overall and 13-2 in the conference, while LYCO dropped to 6-15 on the year and 6-9 in the league.
Earlier in the season, on January 9 to be exact, the Flying Dutchmen dusted Lycoming 68-44 in Williamsport.
“It is a marathon,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Todd Goclowski. “You have to pace yourself. You have to take your time. And not get too excited about one performance or get too upset with another. I think our team does that well. It’s just the determination to keep going. We’ve just got to let go of our mistakes, because that allows us to compete and have successes.
“In basketball, I guess you call this the home stretch,” Goclowski continued. “At this point, there have been some runners who have distanced themselves from the pack. Now you focus on those teams. We’re just trying to keep up and not look ahead.”
After trailing by eight early, Lebanon Valley held LYCO without a point for a 4:26 span late in the first half, and took a 30-20 lead on a basket in close from Caitlin Bach, 2:10 before intermission. The Flying Dutchmen had erased that eight-point hole with a 19-7 burst capped by a charity toss from Renee Fritz, which gave them a 19-15 lead.
“We certainly wanted to play better tonight, for the cause, for the crowd, for the community,” said Goclowski. “Our heart was there, but our execution wasn’t. But we left a lot of room for improvement.
“It’s a fun game,” Goclowski added. “It’s thrilling to see how the Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball team can have an effect on breast cancer. It is now an anticipated event. We would’ve liked to have played better. But we grinded it out and put it in the win column.”
Bach paced the Flying Dutchmen with 17 points and 14 caroms, her third straight double-double. Senior Tierney Hiltz collected 14 LVC points, and classmate and teammate Fritz dropped in 11.
Although Lebanon Valley turned the ball over 25 times – 16 of which came in the second half – it offset that number with a 46-31 advantage on the glass. The Flying Dutchmen also limited Lycoming to 36 percent shooting from the floor and 50 percent shooting from the foul line.
“It’s valuing the opportunity you have and not letting the moment slip by,” said Goclowski. “We need to value the ball to get where we want to go. Defensively, we did not play up to our potential. Offensively, we didn’t find our rhythm. We just came off a game where we scored 83 points on the road.
After enjoying a 30-22 cushion in the locker room, Lebanon Valley assumed a 34-24 lead 2:30 into the second half on a driving lay-in from Hiltz. The Flying Dutchmen maintained that double-digit advantage through a good portion of the second 20 minutes of action, and grabbed a 54-41 advantage on two free throws by Bach, with 2:29 to go.
“It’s an opportunity for the players to feel the energy of the crowd,” said Goclowski of the increasingly popular and sixth edition of the Pink Game. “It’s a rush. Where we want to improve is our performance, in order to keep the crowd involved.”
Lebanon Valley did not score in the initial 5:25 of the contest, as Lycoming opened an 8-0 advantage. A bucket by Hiltz sent the Flying Dutchmen on their way.
“As a coach, I’m consistently searching for the next level,” said Goclowski. “For our group to reach the next level, we have to have a better sense of urgency at the beginning of games. What we need to find is a sense of consistency.
“I give Lycoming a lot of credit,” Goclowski added. “They came in here and gave a spirited effort and kept our crowd from getting into it. They played well, especially in defensive transition, limiting our fast-break points.”
Lebanon Valley’s first meeting with Messiah, on Nov. 28, went to the Falcons by a 62-56 score.
“One game at a time,” said Goclowski. “Messiah’s in first place. They defeated us already. It’s a road game. Clearly we’re the underdogs going in. We look ahead to it with great enthusiasm. I’m sure the atmosphere will be electric on Saturday.”