BY JEFF FALK
ANNVILLE – Pink isn’t a color. It’s a mindset, a way of life, a spirit.
It’s an approach that the Lebanon Valley College women’s basketball team is trying to model. One that the Flying Dutchmen exemplified last night.
On Wednesday evening at Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium, during its 11th annual ‘Pink Game’, LVC emulated everything its favorite cause stands for – hope, courage and unity – during a 74-65 triumph over Widener. Sharing the basketball and executing offensively, the Flying Dutchmen forged a 34-28 halftime margin and spent every ounce of their energy protecting it during the second 20 minutes of action.
Their fourth straight victory pushed the Flying Dutchmen’s overall record to 13-8 and their Commonwealth Conference mark to 8-4. With four regular-season tilts left, Lebanon Valley solidified its spot for the upcoming conference postseason.
With the outcome, Widener slipped to 9-11 on the year and 3-8 in the circuit. In their first meeting of the season, on November 28th, Lebanon Valley downed The Pride 56-54 in Chester.
The Flying Dutchmen donned special pink jerseys for the contest, which afterwards were auctioned off to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research. Proceeds went to the American Cancer Society of Lebanon County and the Penn State Health Cancer Institute.
“From a playoff-standpoint, we’re trying to get that third slot (in the league),” said Lebanon Valley head coach Amy Sokaitis. “It was a big game for us. We brought a lot of people into the gym and we wanted to play well. We wanted to raise some awareness for breast cancer.
“Cancer has its effects on everybody,” Sokaitis continued. “It touches everybody. This has always been a special event to us, and to women’s basketball. I want to carry it on and teach my players. I want to thank everyone who came out and supported the game and the cause.”
Lebanon Valley performed admirably all evening long, but it was at its best in the second quarter.
A three-pointer from Becky Evans 1:11 into the stanza extended LVC’s lead to 27-19. Then after The Pride had closed the gap, the Flying Dutchmen used an Anne Lehr jumper and free throw, and two lay-ins by Emily Mealey to open a 33-24 cushion.
“I think offensively, we might’ve been as good as we’ve been all year,” said Sokaitis. “Finding our offensive flow was great, but we lost a little bit of defensive focus. But I’m really happy with the way we played.
“We had great balance,” continued Sokaitis. “That makes us hard to guard. We’re just playing good basketball as a team. We were focused, but we also enjoyed it.”
Initially, LVC had used a modest 6-0 run to snap a 15-15 first-quarter tie and gain an early advantage. Baskets by Evans, Lehr and Caroline Scarff provided the offense for Lebanon Valley College.
“We were solid defensively in two quarters,” said Sokaitis. “We were really good in the second quarter and we were really good in the fourth quarter. We put up a bunch of points in the first quarter and the third quarter. We were kind of content to trade baskets.
“We spent a lot of time in practice this week working on our press, using it sporadically to slow runs,” added Sokaitis. “We were just trying to keep them off balance. We knew they were going to make runs. But I thought our kids responded.”
The Flying Dutchmen attack featured four scorers in double figures. Evans poured in 22 points, Mealey pumped in 15 points, Lehr recorded 12 and Morgan Bamberger registered 11.
Lebanon Valley shot a torrid 49 percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Flying Dutchmen limited Widener to 41 percent shooting and forced 21 turnovers.
“We have different players who can score,” said Sokaitis. “We don’t have just one person. We don’t have anyone who thinks they’ve got to take 30 shots.
“But we also preach knowing when your teammate gets hot,” Sokaitis added. “We find different ways to score. That’s this group getting to know each other on the floor. Before this season, they didn’t play a lot together.”
Lebanon Valley enjoyed a number of 12-point leads in the third quarter.
The first was at 50-38, courtesy of an Evans jumper five minutes into the stanza. The last was at 56-44, thanks to a Veronica Venezia bucket with 2:45 of it remaining.
“We’re a different basketball team today,” said Sokaitis. “That team (at the beginning of the season) had raw talent, but didn’t play together. Now they’ve bought in. They’ve really grown, and they’re understanding the offense and defense.”
The Pride did pull to within 63-58 of LVC in the middle of the final quarter. But Lebanon Valley put the outcome out of reach with three-point daggers from Venezia and Bamberger.
“We need to continue to grow,” said Sokaitis. “Win or lose, I’d like us to play a better basketball game tomorrow, and one even better the next day.”
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