Following a 77-67 loss to PSAC East leader Kutztown University on Wednesday night, the West Chester University men’s basketball team returned to the friendly confines of Hollinger Field House for a crucial showdown with Mansfield, and the Golden Rams secured control of their playoff destiny with a huge 91-82 win.Nine different WCU players scored during the game, and the Golden Rams had four players, all juniors, with double-digit points. Guard Kenneth St. George led the charge for WCU with 21 points, and Ralph Hegamin also had a big game with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Anthony Haley had a breakout game with 15 points on the strength of 3-4 shooting from three-point land, and Kehinde Roberts chipped in ten points. WCU also got a great well-rounded effort from Kevin Stokes as he scored four points, grabbed four rebounds, dished out eight assists, snatched two steals, and didn’t turn the ball over once.
“Man, Stokes was really good today,” said Hegamin. “He was very opportunistic and he played very well.”
WCU came out of the locker room with a spring in their step and it showed as they took an early lead. With 12:36 left in the first half, WCU’s lone senior, Kevin Stokes, spied an open Haley and fed him a nice pass and Haley hit a three-point shot to extend WCU’s lead to 17-9.
However, Mansfield would then proceed to go on a 12-4 run to knot things back up at 21. A Ryan Callahan three-point jumper gave Mansfield its first lead of the game at 24-23. The teams then went back and forth until the wire. Haley hit a three-pointer with 32 seconds left in the half to extend WCU’s lead to six, but Callahan would whittle it down to three with a big three-pointer to only allow WCU a three-point lead at the half.
The Golden Rams crushed Mansfield on the glass as they out-rebounded them 31-15 in the first half. Hegamin almost had a double-double in the first half alone as he had 13 points and eight rebounds.
Mansfield’s Yuseff Carr, who torched the Golden Rams in the teams’ first meeting with 26 points, gave Mansfield another lead with a layup to make it 48-47. That lead was short-lived, and ended up being Mansfield’s final lead of the night. Haley hit a three-pointer, yet again with an assist from Stokes, and WCU never looked back.
A St. George jumper extended WCU’s lead to 10 points, their largest of the game, with just 4:40 left. A Callahan free throw brought the Golden Rams’ lead down to four with just 3:06 left, but some clutch free throw shooting sealed the deal for WCU. The Golden Rams finished the game shooting 22-32 from the free throw line.
“We had a big team effort,” said Hegamin. “Everyone came out and played well. Ant [Anthony Haley] had a really nice game, Kev [Kevin Stokes] had one hell of a game, I mean, everyone had a nice game.”
?Player of the Week: Ralph Hegamin. Easily the team’s MVP this year, Hegamin averaged 18.5 points and 13 rebounds this week in a crucial week for the Golden Rams.
?The Golden Rams are one win away from clinching a playoff spot. The team is a year removed from a three-win conference slate, and now they’re just one win away from the playoffs.
?The possible playoff berth has brought upon some possible PSAC Coach of the Year rumblings for Coach Damien Blair. One guy who isn’t shy about voicing his support for Blair is Hegamin.
“Yes, if we make playoffs, Coach Blair is definitely the coach of the year. I don’t see anyone across the league who has done this kind of job. It’s not a debate for me”
?The Golden Rams will get their first chance to clinch that precious playoff spot in front of the home fans on Wednesday night. Shippensburg comes to Hollinger, and a win will put the Golden Rams into the playoffs.
?If WCU makes the playoffs, they will either face top seed Kutztown or second seed Cheyney. With only four teams making the playoffs, the opening round sees the top seed playing the fourth seed and the second seed playing the third seed. If West Chester wins both games this week, they will be assured of a rematch with cross-town rival Cheyney. The two teams split the regular season games with each team winning on the other’s home court. On Feb. 21, WCU went into Cope Hall and won 65-52. Kehinde Roberts and Ralph Hegamin each had 20 points to lead the Golden Rams. On Feb. 11, Cheyney’s Dominique Curry shined with a 14 point, 15-rebound game as the Wolves exacted revenge on the Golden Rams with a 64-57 win.
?Should the Golden Rams end up as the fourth seed, they will have to take on Kutztown at Kutztown. The Golden Bears are the class of the entire PSAC, boasting a 22-3 overall record and a stellar 11-1 PSAC East record. KU is the deepest and most talented team in the conference, led by possible PSAC Player of the Year Dave Ben. Ben is the PSAC’s leading scorer at 22.2 points per game. His teammate Stephen Dennis isn’t far behind him as he is third in the conference in scoring, averaging 20.3 points per game. The duo also sits in the top two spots among the league’s leaders in steals, combining to average 4.8 steals per game. The Golden Rams and Golden Bears met twice this year. In the first meeting at Hollinger, Kutztown trampled WCU 97-71. On Wednesday, the Golden Rams kept it much closer but still succumbed by a score of 77-67.
?WCU would be in the best position to make some noise if they finish third. They could avoid Kutztown for a round and get some momentum going. A chance to end their biggest rival’s season is also something the players would look forward to.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.