The Engineers (15-13), seeded fourth, will take on top-seeded Bucknell today in the semifinals. Lafayette will play Towson State in the other semifinal.
Drexel, seeded fifth, finished the season 14-14, somewhat disappointing
because last season the Dragons, with virtually the same cast, won the postseason tourney and the NCAA berth.
Polaha's 42 points were a school, tournament and Towson Center record. He shot 12 of 19 from the field and hit 4 of 5 three-point field goals. Four other Engineers were in double figures.
Polaha's crucial shooting spree came with 5 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in regulation and Lehigh trailing, 69-56.
During the next three minutes, Polaha ripped off nine points while the Dragons committed five turnovers and watched their 13-point lead evaporate to just four at 71-67.
"I think we were celebrating early," Burke said. "We were overconfident. The kids just got emotionally involved and couldn't finish them off."
To complicate matters, with 1:36 left in regulation, junior guard Michael Anderson (26 points, 9 assists, 5 steals) fouled out with the game tied at 78-78.
"Our best player goes to the bench and we came unglued," Burke said. "I wasn't pleased with the officiating. The uniformed guys without stripes should decide games."
Regulation ended at 82-82 and the first overtime ended at 88-88. Even the half was tied, 35-35.
Drexel, which defeated Lehigh twice during the regular season, held junior forward Daren Queenan, the ECC scoring leader, to 18 points, 6 below his
average, with Rob Johnstone guarding him the whole way.
Queenan, a Norristown High School graduate, did not make an impact until the second overtime, when he iced the game by scoring 6 of the Engineers' first 8 points as they pulled ahead 96-91 with 2:54 left to play.
"I never got frustrated so long as someone else was doing the scoring," Queenan said. "What makes it frustrating is when you think it's up to you to do all the scoring."
It was up to Polaha, the 6-foot-3 former Allentown Central Catholic guard, who ripped up his anterior cruciate knee ligaments in a summer-league game in 1985 and sat out last season.
"I felt like every shot was a lucky time for me," Polaha said. "Like I couldn't miss."
Polaha hit a spinning, turnaround shot in the lane that tied the game at 82-82 with 42 seconds left in regulation. "Nothing special about that spinning shot," Polaha said. "I've done it a few times before."
If there was one aspect other than Polaha's shooting that hurt Drexel, it was 23 turnovers and three misses on the front ends of one-and-ones in the first overtime.
"Even down 13 I didn't think we were out of it," said Lehigh coach Fran McCaffery. "There was plenty of time to come back. We've been in situations like that before. The big thing was getting Anderson to foul out of the game. They're a different club without him."
Lehigh's 109 points were a tournament record (but not a Lehigh record) and the combined total (207) was a tournament record.
Sophomore forward John Rankin had 24 points for Drexel.
Bucknell 81, Delaware 71 - Chris Seneca and Mark Allsteadt combined for 39 points to lead Bucknell to victory.
The Bison were pressed throughout by the bottom-seeded Blue Hens. Delaware received career-highs from Taurence Chisholm with 25 points and Tony Tucker with 27.
Bucknell took the lead for good on Steve Schrader's basket with 3:21 to go in the first half. The Bison led by 39-36 at halftime. Baskets by Tucker tied the game twice in the second half, but Delaware was unable to move in front.
Delaware's Steve Jennings had 12 rebounds while Mark Atkinson led the Bison with 10. The loss ended Delaware's season with a record of 12-16. Bucknell improved to 20-8.
Lafayette 81, Hofstra 76 - Second-seeded Lafayette advanced to the semifinals with a victory over seventh-seeded Hofstra.
The Leopards, coached by former Princeton mentor Butch Van Breda Koloff, led from start to finish in a game that was not as close as the final indicated.
Otis Ellis led Lafayette with 24 points, and teammate Billy Hughes also ended the game in double digits, with 17 points.
Lafayette (16-12) led at the half 40-28, and built that lead to as much as 18 points in the second half before going to the bench. Leroy Allen paced Hofstra (8-20) with 24 points, while Steve Rebholz added 19 for the Flying Dutchman.
Towson State 89, Rider 79 - Billy Leonard scored 22 points, and Michael Fink added 21, carrying host Towson to a first-round win.
Marty Johnson added 18, and Marc Boyle had 9 points and 5 rebounds for Towson State, which snapped a five-game losing streak to raise its record to 13-15. Rider (12-16) was led by Ron Simpson with 25 points. Marshall Grier added 24 and 15 rebounds.