Sitting on the sideline on Saturday afternoon before the Pittsburgh women’s basketball game, I had a strange feeling come over me. Thoughts of the Villanova game came into my mind, a 73-34 defeat and the last Big East team Lafayette had played. The Wildcats shot 10-of-20 from three-point range and seemed to just knock down everything they threw at the basket. Then another thought came swooping in and the fan in me came out…what if?
What if the 2-5 Leopards somehow came out and knocked off a Pittsburgh team that was 5-1 entering the game? What if Lafayette, a team that had lost a heartbreaker to Rider just five days before, could somehow pull off a signature win? What if last year wasn’t a fluke and that overtime loss could be redeemed in Easton this afternoon? What if…we win?
I tried not to get excited when Linnel Macklin and Brya Freeland each hit threes to take an 11-5 lead into the 16-minute timeout. I tried not to overreact to thoughts of fate when Kelly Loughney, who hadn’t attempted a three-point shot all year, sunk the and-one from beyond the arc to give the Leopards the 26-13 lead. Pitt will come back right? This can’t last 40 minutes.
With the 12-point lead coming out of halftime, Pitt did just that. The Panthers eventually tied it up at 54 with 6:52 left. Well, there it goes. We played a Big East team even for more than 33 minutes, an accomplishment in its own right. This is when Pitt takes over and goes home victorious.
Enter the 4-minute media timeout, Lafayette leading by 1. As Coach Nolan told reporters in post-game interviews, everyone looks around and says, “we’re going to win this game.”
Sure. Easy to say, but hard to grasp as the Leopards have come up on the short end of multiple close games in the last two seasons (see last year’s Patriot League quarterfinal against top-seeded American).
Then, with 26 seconds remaining and up 4, Macklin, who shot 4-of-7 on the day from three, curled off a screen from Emily Homan, took the feed from Freeland and took the shot from the top of the key. It can’t go in, right? Swoosh! Nothing but the bottom of the net and the game was sealed.
It would have been very easy for the Leopards to stop and take the bright spots from those first 33 minutes of Saturday’s game. But they’ve done that before (last year at Pitt).
That’s not why the words “Green Light” are hanging in their locker room. It means “move forward.” Win the close games and fight through adversity to take that next step forward.
Playing one of the toughest schedules in its history, this team deserved this. Taking on opponents like No. 9 Penn State, Villanova, Pittsburgh, No. 15 Ohio State and a St. Joseph’s team that knocked off No. 5 Maryland earlier this season, Lafayette has proved it could be the centerpiece of an exciting start to 2013 inside Kirby Sports Center.
Put a check next to Saturday’s game in the “Green Light” column.