Paige Krifcher of Long Island Lutheran lays up a basket...

Paige Krifcher of Long Island Lutheran lays up a basket against Rosie Stahler of Lower Merion during the Philly/New York Challenge, Saturday. (Jan. 8, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

PHILADELPHIA - Yuni Sher had no doubt Long Island Lutheran could rally despite facing a 15-point deficit early in the third quarter, even though the Crusaders had been passive on defense and didn't run their offense well in the first half.

"I didn't think it was too much of a deficit," Sher said. "If you're a good team, 15 points isn't too much to overcome."

Long Island Lutheran almost pulled it off, but couldn't get closer than two points in a 55-47 loss to Lower Merion Saturday in the Philly/New York Challenge at Archbishop Ryan High School.

"We just had a few bad possessions on offense," said Sher, who scored 17 points. "It just shows you can never give up. We showed a lot of heart in the second half."

Long Island Lutheran (7-3) was smothering on defense in the second half, allowing just four field goals. After trailing 39-24, the Crusaders went on a 17-4 run capped by a Sher layup off a pass from Sade Gibbons with 4:07 remaining to pull within 43-41.

Sheba Hall scored on a putback and hit two free throws to give Lower Merion a 47-41 lead with 3:21 left. It stayed that way until two minutes remained, and with no shot clock, Long Island Lutheran was forced to foul incessantly. Lower Merion shot 8-for-12 from the free-throw line in the final 1:26.

"Not having a shot clock hurt us," Long Island Lutheran coach Rich Slater said. "We had more energy in the second half. I thought our pressure was solid. I thought we had the momentum. We were one stop away."

Long Island Lutheran fell behind 16-8 with 1:49 left in the first quarter before going on a 6-0 run capped by a basket from Paige Krifcher (17 points). Then the Crusaders' defense went into a lapse and Lower Merion took advantage with two three-pointers during an 11-0 run to take a 27-14.

Sam Milhaven broke the drought for LIL with a three-point play, but the three-point shooting of Lower Merion hurt the Crusaders again. Lila Jones completed a four-point play after being fouled on a three-pointer and Hall hit a three-pointer to make it 34-21 late in the second quarter.

"In the second half, we played the way we should," Sher said. "Defensively, we attacked more. We got up on the ball more. This is a loss you learn from that makes you better."

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