The West Chester men’s basketball team had a strong week at home to keep their playoff chances alive and went 2-0 after dropping four of their previous five games. On Wednesday, West Chester held off a late Shippensburg threat to grab the win. They followed up that win with a 28 point victory over Millersville on Saturday.At this point in the season, every game is important to West Chester’s possible future in the playoffs. With Mansfield being the only team in the PSAC East to clinch a playoff berth so far, the postseason is still in reach for a lot of teams.
In recent weeks, West Chester has shown subpar numbers from all aspects of the floor. Whether they were missing game changing free throws or coming up short in their free throw percentage, they weren’t finding what it took to finish their games out strong.
However, that all changed this past week. They came out strong against Shippensburg from the moment the ball was tipped. West Chester went on a 17-2 run in the first half to make the score 21-7 in their favor with 7:27 left in the half. By halftime, West Chester was leading by 16 points.
The second half seemed to go West Chester’s way as well. With just over 11 minutes left in the game, West Chester led their opponents by 20 points. However, Shippensburg was not ready to give up quite yet and put together a late streak that caught the Rams off guard. West Chester saw their comfortable lead quickly decreasing until Shippensburg finally came within six with only 1:53 left in the game.
West Chester was able to capitalize on opportunities at the free throw line to stave off Ship’s efforts and they finally took the game 66-58. The win kept West Chester’s playoff hopes alive.
Lance McDowell led the Rams in scoring with 18 points. He also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots in the win.
West Chester brought their do-or-die mentality into their game on Saturday against Millersville. Millersville was able to keep the game relatively close in the first half, but once the second half started, West Chester ran away with the lead. West Chester grabbed the momentum and was able to play tight against Millersville and not allow them enough room to get set up or make the plays that would have kept them in the game.
They capitalized on Millersville’s turnovers and on their fast break attempts. West Chester’s largest lead of the game was 28, which is what they ended up winning by. The final score was 76-48.
Again, McDowell led the scoring for West Chester with 15 points. The Rams had three other players in double figures. Carl Johnson and Khalif Foster added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Harley Williamson had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Two of his points came off of a dunk that capped off the scoring for the afternoon.
Both games this week were strong defensive games for West Chester. They were able to force their opponents into making mistakes and then took advantage of the opportunities that arose from those mistakes.
After this week, West Chester improves their overall record to 14-10. They are now 5-7 in the conference and jumped up a spot in the standings. They are now in sixth place in the PSAC East.
West Chester’s strong efforts on the week were slightly tainted by the results of games they were dependent on. On Saturday, Cheyney won their game against Bloomsburg and East Stroudsburg edged Kutztown by only one point. Both teams will have to lose their remaining two games in order for West Chester to have a shot at the playoffs.
West Chester can do more than just hope Cheyney loses their next game. The Rams will travel across town to Cheyney’s campus for a game on Wednesday that will have the atmosphere of a playoff game.
If the Rams bring the level of play that they have cultivated in the past couple of games into their game against Cheyney, they will be able to do something not too many teams have done this year: beat Cheyney on their turf.
The game against the Wolves is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. West Chester will return home for their regular season finale on Saturday Feb. 26 in a game against Bloomsburg that is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Bloomsburg is only one spot ahead of West Chester in the PSAC East standings.
Amy Festa is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AF649219@wcupa.edu.