The quest for a first PSAC Championship is underway. For the 10th consecutive season, the Golden Rams men’s basketball team will participate in the PSAC postseason tournament. The Golden Rams head into the playoffs as the top seed in the PSAC East after closing the regular season with a win over Bloomsburg.
On Tuesday, the Golden Rams will host East Stroudsburg in a quarterfinal match-up. A victory over East Stroudsburg guarantees they will host the PSAC Final Four for the first time in school history on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Golden Rams’ (17-10, 9-3) third division title in team history was not an easy accomplishment. It took three straight victories in league play to wrap up the team’s first PSAC East title since the 2001-2002 season.
“I am thrilled about this,” head coach Dick DeLaney told The Daily Local following the win versus Bloomsburg. “We have so many unselfish players on this team. It’s not just one or two guys. It’s a whole team [effort] and that’s the difference this year.”
WCU split the season series against East Stroudsburg (16-11,7-5). On Jan. 28, the Golden Rams fell to the Warriors, 68-57, but won the revenge game on Feb. 18, 77-65. Senior guard Mark Gerhart scored a combined 32 points in the two meetings.
If the Golden Rams hope to avoid an upset, senior Azim Jones and junior Donnell Butler will need to continue playing at a high level. Butler is coming off a game in which he finished with a career-high of 30 points.
“I can’t even explain this feeling,” Butler told The Daily Local. “It is real perfect timing coming back to the team this year and have this happen. I love this team. We are so close and everybody picks everyone up. There are no stars on this team.”
Butler’s 13.6 points per game led the Golden Rams in the regular season. Jones is shooting nearly 50 percent from this field this year and averages eight points a game.
Due to the strong performances of Butler and Jones this year, junior center Aaron Williams has shied away from the spotlight, but has still been very effective. Williams has been a scoring threat this year, averaging 9.5 points per game. However, Williams has been stellar after the shot, tallying 199 rebounds this season.
Along with Gerhart, senior guard Brandon Long anchors a steady frontcourt for the Golden Rams. Long won’t be expected to shoot too much in the postseason, but instead focus on calling out the plays, limiting turnovers and finding the open man. Long, as the team’s co-captain, has built a good reputation of doing just that. Gerhart, on the other hand, will be counted on to do just about everything. Gerhart averages 11 points, three assists and 1.4 steals per game.
The Golden Rams also have a productive bench that, as proven this season, can significantly contribute to the team’s success. Nathan Wingerd, Lenwood Greenwood and Shawn Werdt will continue to be the go-to guys off the bench.
The Golden Rams and the Warriors will tip off on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The Final Four games on Friday and Saturday will start at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.