Eric Harrison knows a thing or two about winning.
Sitting just a handful of wins away from 300 career victories, the Lehman College women’s basketball coach is adept at building cohesive teams that consistently churn out winning seasons and regularly competes for the City University of New York Athletic Conference championship.
But there was little he liked about his team following its 78-75 non-conference loss to Ramapo at the Apex last week. It was not so much the loss that rankled Harrison, but what helped fuel the defeat.
“We’ve got immaturity on this team,” said Harrison, now in his 20th season at Lehman. “We had to make some halftime adjustments, some people we weren’t going to play to wake them up. Very immature, and I’m not going to keep you in the game. I don’t deal with that.”
Most of Harrison’s wrath was directed at junior guard Lillybeth Garcia, who despite scoring 13 points in the first half, was banished to the bench for the second half.
“I’m quite sure she got the message,” Harrison said. “I think the whole team got the message. I’m not selling out for a win. At the end of the day I’ll take a loss to prove a point. It is what it is.”
Despite playing without second-leading scorer Ayanna Behagen — who was nursing a hand injury — and seeing leading scorer Lynda Fields struggle through a scoreless first half, the Lightning still managed to hold a 38-32 lead at intermission.
But the game quickly went south for Lehman after halftime.
“Yeah we played well in the first half,” Harrison said. “But then when you’re dealing with immaturity, it takes away from your whole game plan. We were already shorthanded coming in, and now that puts you more in a hole than you need to be.”
That hole grew in a hurry as Ramapo outscored Lehman 30-15 in the third quarter to take a 62-53 lead into the final period. The key was Ramapo’s taller front line that enabled the Roadrunners to dominate in the paint and get second and third scoring chances on many offensive possessions.
As one might expect, Harrison was also none too happy with his post players.
“We got to get more assertive on the boards,” he said. “Our post players are not in the best of shape early (in the season), and they’re playing a lot of minutes right now that they’re not used to playing. We got to get more physical, more ready to battle. They’re not there right now.”
Lehman did mount a spirited comeback as the Lightning trailed 72-63 with just 2:28 to play after a three-pointer by Fields. And when Selena Lopez completed her own personal 7-0 spurt with a layup with 1:03 to play, suddenly Lehman was down just 72-70.
Ramapo upped its lead to 76-72 on a layup by Samantha Rinaldi at 23.9 seconds, but Fields knocked down a three-ball with 13.2 seconds left, and the Lightning was back within a point.
But two Ramapo free throws by Jenna Harsh gave it her team a three-point cushion, and Fields’ desperation three-pointer at the buzzer missed its mark as Lehman dropped its second straight game to fall to 5-4 overall.
Lehman now goes on break until hosting the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament on Dec. 28, where they will face SUNY Canton in the Thursday opener and either Mount Saint Vincent or FDU-Florham on Friday.
In the meantime, Harrison hopes certain members of his team undergo an attitude adjustment before a promising season spirals into an underachieving one.
“We’re still 2-1 in the conference, and I think we have a lot of talent,” Harrison said. “But I think this is going to be my biggest coaching job as far as dealing with all the attitudes and getting all the new players to gel and be ready come (CUNYAC) tournament time.
“I think this break comes at a good time. It gives some of them time to re-evaluate some things. Right now we’re not the smartest team in the world. The talent is here, but we just don’t have the mental capacity. Right now it’s just not good.”