Every team sets high goals at the beginning of the season. For the West Chester University Lady Rams, one of their goals was to win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Eastern Division, after finishing in second last season. Through 10 conference games, the Lady Rams sit right where they want to be: in first place in the division and one game ahead of Millersville University.”It’s nice,” head coach Deirdre Kane said about being alone in first place. “But it increases the pressure, I think.”
On Wednesday, West Chester (16-7, 8-2 PSAC East) put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division with a 63-54 victory over cross-town rival the Cheyney University Lady Wolves (11-9, 6-4 PSAC East).
“It’s never easy,” Kane said. “There is no quit in them kids (Cheyney), they came back. We were fortunate Martina [Randall] got into foul trouble and [Stephanie] Orji got into foul trouble.”
“It’s a fun atmosphere to play in definitely,” senior forward Dana Weems said. “It gets you hyped for the game.”
Weems (15 points, 11 rebounds) and junior captain Janelle Garber (15 points, 10 rebounds) led West Chester in the victory over Cheyney.
After committing 41 turnovers in a win against Cheyney earlier in the season, West Chester did not want to have a repeat of that performance.
The Lady Rams committed three early turnovers before Weems was able to put the first points on the board for West Chester. Halfway through the first half, West Chester jumped out to a 12 point lead after junior Renata Neal and Garber converted back-to-back layups.
Cheyney was able to cut West Chester’s lead to six after Lutfiyya Muhammad made two layups sandwiched around a Desiree Asberry jumper with less than nine minutes remaining in the half.
Freshman guard Shamyra Hammond provided some energy off the bench for the Lady Rams as she converted a layup and stole the ball from the Wolves Angel Stephens before hitting a pair of free throws to increase the West Chester lead back to double digits.
West Chester pushed the lead up to 17 points by the end of the half as the Lady Rams imposed their will against Cheyney. West Chester shot 45.2 percent from the field in the first half, led by Garber who scored 11 in the half. The Lady Rams only turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, compared to 20 in the first half at Cope Hall on January 21st.
In the second half, West Chester came out quick as Weems hit a jumper to increase the Lady Rams lead to 19. But the Cheyney Wolves were determined to make the game interesting.
Cheyney cut the West Chester lead down to 13 before the Lady Rams went on another run. Garber and Weems each made jumpers, and sophomore guard Megan Stewart hit a pair of free throws to put West Chester back up by 19.
West Chester continued to lead by double figures before the Lady Wolves cut deep into the West Chester lead with less than five minutes remaining in the second half.
“We worked so hard to build the lead but we kind of relaxed,” Weems said. “I don’t like seeing the score dwindle down.”
Orji and Muhammad hit consecutive layups to pull Cheyney within seven points. Angel Henderson hit a jumper to cut deeper into the West Chester lead, 57-52. But that is as close as the Lady Wolves would get as West Chester was able to hit their free throws down the stretch and make Cheyney pay for their mistakes.
Stewart hit a pair of free throws, redshirt freshman Allison Hostetter buried and jumper and Stewart hit a layup to end the scoring for West Chester as they pulled away for the nine point victory over the Lady Wolves.
Joining Weems and Garber on the stat sheet were Stewart and Dominique Adams with nine points apiece, Hostetter with five points, Renata Neal and Hammond with four apiece and Jill Keefer with two points. Stewart added eight steals, Weems had five steals and Garber added four.
“[Dana] has been coming in and working on her individual skills,” Kane said. “She really wants to go out with a bang.”
West Chester committed 28 turnovers, while forcing Cheyney to turn the ball over 28 times also. The Lady Rams shot 40.4 percent from the field for the game, and 75 percent from the charity strip.
“Our trap is pretty aggressive,” Weems said. “We knew if we were really aggressive with our traps they would turn the ball over. Our main goal today was to definitely get out on the shooters and stay matched up to them. I think our defense was pretty good, way better than the first time we played them.”
Cheyney was led by Angel Stephens who had 10 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and six steals. Orji added eight points and 12 rebounds.
“Every game is nerve racking,” Kane said. “It’s worse when you win because everyone gets hyped to play you.”
On Saturday, the Lady Rams lost a hard fought battle against the Bloomsburg University Lady Huskies (9-14, 1-9 PSAC East) 63-61. Even with the loss, the Lady Rams remained in first place in the PSAC East thanks to the Millersville victory over Kutztown. The win for Bloomsburg marked their first win the division this season.
Weems led West Chester with 19 points and 12 rebounds on the afternoon. Neal (11) and Stewart (10) also scored in double figures for the Lady Rams. Stewart added five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
West Chester led by eight going into the half, but a strong second half by the Lady Huskies, who shot 48.1 percent in the half, kept the Lady Rams from pulling out the victory on the road.
With nine minutes left in the second half, Bloomsburg took the lead after being down by as many as 10 in the second half. Bloomsburg pushed their lead to as many as seven before West Chester made a mini-run.
With less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, Stewart attempted a three point shot but was fouled. She converted the first two free throws, missed the third intentionally, but the Lady Rams were not able to get the rebound to try and tie the game, as Bloomsburg pulled off the upset.
Garber added nine points and four rebounds on the afternoon. Keefer added six points off the bench.
Colleen Kegerreis led Bloomsburg with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Lauren Healy and Kelsey Gallagher also scored in double digits, 16 and 12, respectively.
CLEARING THE NOTEBOOK
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Dana Weems and Janelle Garber. Weems averaged 17 points, 11.5 rebounds and four steals on the week. Garber averaged 12 points and seven rebounds for the Lady Rams during the week.
UPCOMING GAMES: This week, the Lady Rams travel to Kutztown on Wednesday in the semi-annual “Battle for Golden Glory” between the Rams and Bears, tip-off scheduled for 6 p.m. On Saturday, West Chester hosts Mansfield at 1 p.m. West Chester will host “Pink Zone” day as they will try to raise awareness for breast cancer awareness.
WHERE THEY STAND: In the PSAC East, West Chester stands at 8-2 and in first place in the division. Millersville sits in second with a 7-3 record, followed by Kutztown (6-4) and Cheyney (6-4).
LJ Harrell is a third-year student majoring in Business. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.