BY JEFF FALK
There are a couple of ways to tell when a program has arrived as a national power. One of them is getting a good handle on your rival.
The evolution of Lebanon Valley College’s women’s basketball team becoming a force with which to be reckoned in the NCAA’s Division Three continues.
On Wednesday night in Grantham, the Flying Dutchmen registered a meaningful and noteworthy triumph by downing perennial Commonwealth Conference power Messiah, 56-52. After a furious Falcon comeback had tied the contest at 52 late, Lebanon Valley notched the final four points to emerge victorious.
Up 11 points with under eight minutes to play, the Flying Dutchmen endured a 17-6 run by Messiah. But a lay-in from Gina Russo with 1:28 to go and a couple of free throws by freshman Kiely Chaklos with 16 ticks left stemmed the tide and proved decisive.
The Flying Dutchmen held Messiah without a point over the contest’s final 1:53.
LVC’s win was its eight straight and its second of the season over Messiah, and left it 18-2 overall and 9-0 in the Commonwealth Conference. It also clinched a fifth consecutive conference playoff berth for the 18th ranked Flying Dutchmen, the defending Commonwealth champion.
Messiah slipped to 16-4 on the season and 7-2 in the conference. Back on November 30th in Annville, Lebanon Valley defeated Messiah 54-47.
A Tierney Hiltz-fueled 16-2 spurt gave Lebanon Valley a 16-8 lead midway through the first half. Hiltz led Lebanon Valley in scoring with 11 points, while teammate Caitlin Murphy contributed 10.
Lebanon Valley College enjoyed a 21-19 edge at the break.
The Flying Dutchme limited Messiah to 36 percent shooting from the field.