Ticket punched: Lafayette survives American rally to claim Patriot League

Ticket punched: Lafayette survives American rally to claim Patriot League

Lafayette held a 13-point lead early in the second half of the Patriot League championship game Wednesday night and seemed to be in control against American, but the Eagles came storming back to take the lead with 5 minutes remaining.

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But Seth Hinrichs and Zach Rufer made 3-point shots to put Lafayette back in front and Nick Lindner scored the final four points as it held on to win 65-63 in an electric atmosphere at Kirby Sports Center. The Lafayette crowd stormed the court to celebrate the Leopards first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2000 and only their fourth trip overall.

The victory capped a run through the tournament by the fourth-seeded Leopards that included a win over No. 5 seed Boston University, an upset of top-seeded Bucknell and Wednesday's victory. The Leopards lost four of their final six games entering the tournanent and became the lowest seed in league history to capture the title.

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Lindner scored 25 points, making nine of his 13 shots, and Hinrichs added 16. Pee Wee Gardner and Marko Vasic each scored 15 to lead American, which was the defending champion, but enter the tournament as the No. 6 seed with an 8-10 regular season record in conference play.

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!