A new era is now underway for the West Chester University Golden Rams (0-1) as Head Coach Damien Blair led West Chester in their first game of the season. This is the first time in 21 seasons that someone not named Dick DeLaney roamed the sidelines at Hollinger Field House as the Golden Rams head coach. In his first game leading West Chester, Blair and the Golden Rams fell to the Bloomfield College Deacons 74-61. “It’s one game and we will win and lose together,” Blair said after the loss. “We just need to learn how to play together. They are getting to know me in game situations and I’m getting to know them.”
Junior forward Ralph Hegamin led all players with 21 points and 12 rebounds, his first double-double of the season. Hegamin shot 7-16, 1-4 from three-point land and 6-8 from the free throw line.
“Overall, my game, I should have come out more aggressive at the beginning of the game,” Hegamin said. “I was settling too much for jumpers. One of the things that coach tried to instill in me at the beginning of the year was try to be aggressive. Taking a lot of shots, taking a lot of good, productive shots. Attacking the basket and putting pressure on the defense. For me to have a double-double is all right, but I would have rather had the win.”
West Chester came out and put the first points on the board as junior forward Kehinde Roberts drove the lane and hit a layup. Bloomfield came right back as Omari Knox hit his first of two first half three-pointers to give the Deacons the early lead.
“[We had] a really bad start,” Blair said. “Everything for us has to start on the defensive end. We didn’t identify some of their better players. We gave up too much penetration. We gave up too many second shots. Consequently they got a pretty good lead and we couldn’t get over the hump.”
Hegamin gave the Golden Rams the lead with a layup but that would be the last time that West Chester would be ahead in this contest and Bloomfield went on a 9-0 run within the next three minutes.
Knox hit his second three-pointer to put the Deacons up by two. Following a steal by Ahmad Harris, Knox came down and hit a jumper to extend the Bloomfield lead to four.
Bloomfield would extend their lead to 13 points over the Golden Rams as Wilson Pilarte drilled a three-pointer and Elias Brantley hit a jumper to make it 22-9 at the 13-minute mark.
“Our defense wasn’t very solid, our offense wasn’t really good,” Hegamin said. “We were running through our plays, we were running through the looks, and most of the looks are to eventually have somebody cut to the block and work inside out but no one was really doing that. There were a lot of perimeter oriented shots.”
Every time West Chester seemed to try and make a run, Bloomfield came right back to match them score for score.
Roberts made a layup to cut into the Deacons lead. Then redshirt freshman Thiel Benn made a layup of his own to get within 10 points. But Knox came down the floor for Bloomfield and hit a jumper to increase the lead back to 12.
Bloomfield pushed the lead to as many as 16 points when Brantley hit a pair of jumpers following a Kenneth St. George layup at the seven minute mark of the first half.
Bloomfield held onto the lead throughout the half as they went into the locker room leading 40-29.
St. George had eight points and four rebounds as he played 19 minutes in the first half. Hegamin had nine points and six rebounds in the first half.
In the second half, West Chester looked to make a run to try and come away with the victory. But Nnamdi Ahaneku and Roahn Sheppard made back-to-back baskets for Bloomfield to start the second half.
After Harris made a layup to put the Deacons up 16, the Golden Rams went on a run. In the next six minutes, West Chester went on a 14-6 run to get within eight points of Bloomfield.
Bloomfield never allowed West Chester to get any closer than eight points. The Deacons went on a 10-5 run to increase their lead to 13 points and keep the Golden Rams out of reach in this game. With two minutes remaining Brantley made a layup for the Deacons to finish off West Chester 74-61.
St. George, the junior captain, finished with eight points and six rebounds for the game. Roberts finished second on the team with 12 points. He also added four assists and five rebounds. Sandy Tanner and Benn, the two freshmen in the starting lineup, finished with four combined points.
“Kenny wasn’t himself today,” Blair said. “Normally he is very vocal and he’s telling guys where to go and putting them in the right spots and at the start of the game he is our core as far as our match up defense and he wasn’t being as vocal as he normally is in that spot.
West Chester shot 40 percent from the field for the game, compared to 53.7 percent for Bloomfield. The Golden Rams shot 26.3 percent from behind the arc and 63.2 percent from the charity strip.
“Shooting 19 three’s, that’s not bad, but that’s not our game,” Hegamin said. “We don’t have a whole bunch of perimeter three point shooters, at least percentage wise. We need to get to the basket.”
“There really aren’t many positives,” Blair said. “I’m sitting here trying to think of a positive but that’s probably one of the worse displays of basketball I’ve seen out of this group so far in every aspect. We didn’t do anything well tonight.”
**The West Chester – Chestnut Hill game played Sunday at 4 p.m. was not finished in time for this week’s paper.
LJ Harrell is a third-year student majoring in Business. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.