Return to the Title Game

A THIRD STRAIGHT WIN over Lehigh in one season, this time in the semifinal round of the Patriot League tournament, propelled the men’s basketball team into the conference championship game for the third time in four years.

Led by senior guard Tony Johnson (above), the Leopards, seeded No. 2, crushed third-seeded Lehigh, 82-69, on March 9 before an ecstatic capacity crowd at Kirby Sports Center and nationwide audience on CBS Sports Network. Johnson had 24 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Sophomore guard Seth Hinrichs scored 18 points, sophomore forward Dan Trist had 13, and freshman guard Bryce Scott added 12. The win was Lafayette’s seventh straight, their longest streak since 2004.

In the title game March 13, also televised nationally, the Leopards fell to top-seeded Bucknell, 64-56, in Lewisburg to finish the season 19-15. Sophomore guard Joey Ptasinski led Lafayette with 15 points.

To reach the tournament semifinal, the Leopards routed Holy Cross, the No. 7 seed, 77-54, at Kirby in the opening round. Lafayette earned the second seed with a league mark of 10-4. During the second half of the league season, they won six of seven games, including the last five straight. After winning big at Navy, 70-47, and losing big to Army at home, 85-60, the Leopards downed Bucknell, 63-62, at home; Holy Cross, 79-76, at Worcester; Lehigh, 79-71, at home; Colgate, 80-67, in Hamilton; and American, 80-72, at home.

The Leopards were 4-3 after their first cycle of conference games, with home wins over Navy, Holy Cross, and Colgate and a big road win, 78-57, over Lehigh. They lost at Army, Bucknell, and American.

After starting the season 1-6, the Leopards improved to 7-10 as league play began. The tough non-conference schedule included losses at Kentucky, the 2012 national champion, Maryland, Minnesota, and Stanford, where the game was close until the end. The final non-league game was a notable win, the first for Lafayette over Penn at the Palestra.

Johnson was a unanimous first-team Patriot all-star, Hinrichs was second-team all-league, and Scott was all-rookie. Ptasinski was named to the academic all-league team. Johnson and Hinrichs also were voted to the all-tournament team.

“I have never seen a team grow like this team has,” said Coach Fran O’Hanlon following the tournament win over Lehigh. “But all of the things were in place for that to happen. You hope that the young kids grow up and that you get the rotations down. That is what happens when you kind of evolve into a team.”

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