The West Chester Golden Rams took on the Kutztown Golden Bears at Hollinger Fieldhouse with a playoff berth on the line as well as the opportunity to take the next step towards hosting a first-round playoff game. The second meeting between these teams was expected to go down to the wire much like the first time they clashed on Jan. 25, when the Rams won the game in thrilling fashion, 72-70. In addition to the playoff implications of this game, it also held special meaning to graduating seniors. Guards Mark Gerhart and Brandon Long, and forward Azim Jones all made their final regular season appearance at Hollinger.
It was expected that Kutztown would use their size to bully the Golden Rams off of the offensive and defensive glass, and control the game by working the ball inside to their big men, Ben Arnold and Andre Coles. What transpired, however, was an inspirational first half by the Golden Rams which took the wind right out of the Golden Bears sail. Jones fought off the pressure from Arnold and Coles by grabbing 10 rebounds in the first half alone and was a major factor in West Chester’s success on the defensive end of the floor. He also chipped in nine points in the opening frame. Gerhart had a slow first half, scoring just five points in 18 minutes of action. However, the slack from the guard position was more than picked up by freshman and point guard of the future, Kevin Stokes. Stokes played with gritty determination in the first half, tallying three points and played lock-down defense against Maurice Bryant, who was held scoreless in his 17 minutes of action for the Bears in the first half. West Chester would lead by ten, 39-29, at the end of the first half.
The second half would be a different story. Behind a rejuvenated effort from Moultrie, who chipped in eight second half points, the Bears clawed their way back into the game as the second half wore on.
Kutztown was aided by some questionable officiating in the second half, compounded with the fact that both teams got into early foul trouble, helping the Bears slowly but surely chip away at the Rams’ 10 point half time lead. Kutztown shot an unheard of 58 percent from the free thrown line led by David Ben who was three for four in the second half. Despite the fact that they were in the bonus before the halfway point of the second half, the Golden Rams simply couldn’t capitalize on free throw opportunities.
In the end, the leadership shown by Gerhart, Jones and company proved to be too much for the Golden Bears, as West Chester escaped this one 62-60 victory.
On Saturday, the Golden Rams clinched a playoff berth and took over sole possession of first place in the PSAC East by defeating East Stroudsburg, 77-65.
Gerhart finished with 18 points to lead the Golden Rams. Shawn Werdt had 16 points, including shooting 4-for-5 from three-point land.
WCU now has a half game lead in first place of the division.
The win secured the Golden Rams their 10th consecutive PSAC playoff appearance and a chance for home court advantage in the first round.
The Golden Rams will close out the regular season on Wednesday when they visit Bloomsburg.