NICK LINDNER scored 25 points and Lafayette held off several second-half runs by visiting American to win the Patriot League Tournament title with a 65-63 victory over the Eagles last night.
The fourth-seeded Leopards (20-12) became the lowest seed to win the league tournament title - and its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament - in its 25-year history.
After defending champion and sixth-seeded American (17-16) took a 55-53 lead on Marko Vasic's three-point play with 5:07 left, Lafayette got consecutive three-pointers from Seth Hinrichs and Zach Rufer to regain the lead for good.
With Lafayette up, 61-60, Lindner hit a driving shot with 38 seconds left. After American's John Schoof missed a three, Lindner hit two free throws to seal it.
Lindner, a sophomore point guard out of Germantown Academy, was named tournament MVP. Hinrichs added 16 points.
Vasic finished with 15 points to lead the Eagles.
Lafayette opened up its biggest lead at 40-27 early in the second half on consecutive three-pointers by Bryce Scott and Michael Hoffman, but American responded with seven in a row to pull within six on Pee Wee Gardner's basket with 15:47 remaining.
Lafayette then led 48-36 after three consecutive pull-up jumpers by Hinrichs, but American scored nine straight points to pull to 50-47 with less than 9 minutes left.
Lindner scored 16 points in the first half to give Lafayette a 34-25 lead at the break.
American had nine field goals and 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
The Eagles led until Lindner hit an open three-pointer from the top of the key to give the Leopards a 17-15 lead with 10:45 to go in the first half. Lafayette led the rest of the half.
Lafayette, which made 13 of 19 shots (68.4 percent) in the opening half, had runs of 11-0 and 7-0 to create a little cushion. Lindner's drive with 1:40 remaining gave the Leopards their biggest lead of the half at 30-21.
The Leopards last won a league tournament title in 2000, the second of two in a row. They were 0-4 in Patriot League finals before yesterday.
The Eagles finished the regular season with a losing record in league play (8-10) for only the second time since joining the Patriot League in the 2001-02 season. Their sixth-place finish also was their lowest in their 14-year affiliation with the league. However, they beat Lehigh in the quarterfinals and second-seeded Colgate in the semis.