Coming into the 2009-2010 basketball season, the West Chester University Lady Rams were picked by the conference head coaches to win their second consecutive PSAC East championship. But the start of conference play didn’t start off in West Chester’s favor.After losing their first two conference games in which they held leads against rival Millersville University and Bloomsburg University, the Lady Rams (12-5, 2-2 PSAC East) finally got back on track defeating cross-town rival Cheyney University 65-53 in their conference home opener inside Hollinger Field House.
“I tried not to dwell on it,” head coach Deirdre Kane said about a possible “must-win” situation for her team heading into the game. “It’s a long season. We had three losses last year and tied for the championship in the east. What I tried more to dwell on was our positive energy.”
“I think in the past two games we haven’t got much transition,” sophomore guard Jill Keefer said. “And like Coach said that is our best offense. It felt good to win and the biggest difference was our energy.”
The first half was a low-scoring affair as both defenses came after each other with pressure traps. West Chester took their first lead five minutes into the first half as sophomore Allison Hostetter hit a jumper after senior forward Renata Neal secured one of her two offensive rebounds in the half.
“Cheyney is a good team,” Kane said. “The difference in our team was that when they made their run, everybody – our bench and the kids on the floor – were energized instead of having the life sucked out of them.”
The Lady Rams then opened up their largest lead of the half to six (21-15) with 8:27 left following a layup by junior guard Dominique Adams. A couple minutes later senior guard Bridget Carlin grabbed an offensive rebound and dished the ball off to Neal who made a layup and gave West Chester an eight point advantage, their largest of the first half.
The teams battled back and forth throughout the remainder of the half before Keefer nailed a pair of free throws to end the scoring, with the Lady Rams holding a 29-23 lead heading into the locker room.
One area of concern heading into the game for West Chester was Cheyney’s ability to rebound the basketball. In the first half, the Lady Wolves outrebounded the Lady Rams 28-17, including 15 offensive rebounds.
The West Chester defense held Cheyney to 28.1 percent shooting. Defending PSAC East Player of the Week Lutfiyya Muhammad for the Lady Wolves was corralled all half as she had only four points, 1-7 from the field.
Junior guard Megan Stewart and Renata Neal led the Lady Rams with six points in the half. Neal also had four rebounds, two steals and one block.
In the second half, West Chester’s defensive prowess continued as they held Cheyney to 27 percent (10-37) shooting in the half. Both teams battled back and forth early on in the half before the Lady Rams were able to pull away.
Senior forward and co-captain Janelle Garber nailed her second three-pointer of the season with 14:19 left to extend the West Chester lead to eight. Four minutes later, Hostetter made a layup following a Carlin steal to push the Lady Rams’ lead to a game high 10.
West Chester pushed their lead to 16 after Carlin buried her lone three of the game to put the game out of reach with five minutes remaining. Garber ended the scoring in the final minute to give the Lady Rams their first conference victory.
West Chester prevailed in the game even after committing 22 turnovers and shooting 20 percent from behind the arc.
Cheyney senior forward Angel Stephens finished with a game high 15 points and 14 rebounds. The Lady Wolves shot 27.5 percent from the field and only 50 percent from the foul line. Cheyney also grabbed 50 rebounds, including 26 on the offensive end.
“She’s unbelievable,” Kane said of Stephens. “She’s got a slight build and you don’t even notice the things she is doing. We worked on pinching to keep her off the offensive board on a free throw and she still gets her body in there.”
Garber led West Chester with 13 points and nine rebounds. She also added two assists, two blocks and two steals. Keefer finished with 12 points and three rebounds. Neal had eight points, six rebounds, five blocks and two steals. Stewart finished with six points, four assists and six steals to fill up the stat sheet.
Hostetter (nine points and five rebounds), Mary Kate Serratelli (eight points and four rebounds), Carlin (five points, five assists and three rebounds), Adams (two points, two rebounds and one block) and Alex Lennon (two points, two rebounds and two blocks) all contributed in the victory.
The Lady Rams shot 40.4 percent from the field in the victory and 70.8 percent from the foul line.
On Saturday, West Chester held on for a 60-49 victory over the Mansfield University Mountaineers for their second consecutive victory. The win moved West Chester to .500 in the conference.
The Lady Rams jumped out to an 11 point lead halfway through the first half after Serratelli drilled one of her two three pointers following a missed three point attempt by Mansfield’s Mallory Hafer.
West Chester opened up their largest lead of the half following a Natalie Winters three pointer with less than two minutes left. The Lady Rams shot 39.4 percent from the field while holding the Mountaineers to 32 percent.
In the second half, West Chester opened up a 20-point lead before Mansfield fought back. The Mountaineers went on a 21-7 run in just over eight minutes to cut the Lady Rams’ lead to six (49-43).
West Chester responded as Garber and Hostetter led the charge for the Lady Rams down the stretch and Stewart buried key free throws to put Mansfield away.
Hostetter led all scorers with 17 points, while Garber added 13. Neal had a game-high 13 rebounds, including seven offensive boards. One game after being outrebounded 50-41 by Cheyney, West Chester won the battle on the boards 41-32.
The Lady Rams shot 39.3 percent for the game and 46.2 percent from behind the arc.
CLEARING THE NOTEBOOK
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Janelle Garber. The senior forward averaged a team-high 13 points this week. She also averaged six rebounds, two assists, two steals and 1.5 blocks a game in helping lead the Lady Rams to an undefeated week.
UPCOMING GAMES: West Chester travels to Kutztown University to face their rival Golden Bears at 6 p.m. On Saturday, the Lady Rams travel to East Stroudsburg for a matchup with the Warriors at 1 p.m. Both games can be heard live and exclusively on 91.7 WCUR, www.wcur.fm or www.redzonemedia.com.
WHERE THEY STAND: After two weeks of conference play, West Chester sits in fourth place in the PSAC East, two games behind Millersville and one game behind Bloomsburg and Kutztown.
LJ Harrell is a fourth-year student majoring in Marketing. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.