Entering Wednesday’s game against Shippensburg University, only 13 females in West Chester University basketball history have amassed 1,000 career points in a Golden Ram uniform. But on a night when the University recognized two of the very best players in school history and the two leading scorers in the men and women’s history, Keisha Mack (1,556 points) and Kevin Givens (2,054 points), another player joined the ranks of top Golden Ram players.Senior forward Janelle Garber scored her 1,000th career point with 4:46 left in the game after converting a layup which helped West Chester come from behind to defeat the Red Raiders 63-61 at Hollinger Field House. With the win the Lady Rams improved their conference record to over .500 for the first time this season.
“I wanted to win,” Garber said about her reaction to her teammates mobbing her after scoring her 1,000th career point. “The game was so close. It was nice they came out to congratulate me but I was just in the moment of the game.”
“It was real exciting,” junior guard Megan Stewart said about her teammate’s accomplishment. “We had the balloons and a card as a surprise so she had no idea.”
The game started well for West Chester (14-6, 4-3 PSAC East) as they scored nine of the first 11 points to hold a seven point advantage over Shippensburg within the first four minutes. Junior guards Dominique Adams and Stewart got it started for the Lady Rams as they scored the first seven points for West Chester.
But the Red Raiders fought back and stretched their lead to 10 points over the next 10 minutes in the first half. Kasey Gardner, who picked up two quick fouls, helped spark the run for Shippensburg as she hit two three-pointers in the first half.
Shippensburg senior forward Lauren Beckley, who is second in the PSAC in scoring (20 points per game) and second in PSAC history for career points scored (2,209), scored 10 first half points to lead the Red Raiders to a 32-21 halftime lead over West Chester.
The Lady Rams shot 32.1 percent from the field in the half and only 33.3 percent from the free throw line. Adams had a team-high eight points at the break. West Chester forced 15 Red Raider turnovers in the half.
Shippensburg shot 43.8 percent from the field and outrebounded the Lady Rams 26-15. Beckley also grabbed eight rebounds in the half.
In the second half, Shippensburg continued to hold to double-digit lead for the first five minutes before West Chester got on a run. Garber sparked a 10-0 run for West Chester in a three minute span to close the Red Raider lead to one point. Garber, Adams, and Keefer each scored in the run.
Shippensburg continued to hold the lead for the next four minutes before the Lady Rams regained their first lead since early in the first half. Garber continued her dominant night, including scoring her 1,000th point, in the run which allowed West Chester to regain the lead.
“We were down at halftime but we knew the game wasn’t over,” Stewart said. “So we came out and tried to go on a run. When Jill [Keefer] and Natalie [Winters] came in off the bench they did a great job at giving us a spark and we went on a nice little run then.”
“I think our defense played better in the second half,” Garber said. “We went to a different press and we got a couple steals off of that. We didn’t turn the ball over and we scored on transition.”
Trailing by four with less than two minutes left, sophomore Erin Varley hit a three-pointer for Shippensburg to cut the Golden Rams lead. The Red Raiders than regained the lead with 1:06 left as Gardner converted a layup.
But West Chester got the lead right back as Garber scored with 46 seconds left to give the Lady Rams the lead for good. Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch by Stewart and Renata Neal sealed the deal for West Chester.
“We definitely came up with the big plays when we needed them,” Stewart said. “We came out and executed and did what we needed to do to get the win.”
Garber scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the second half. Adams (11 points) and Keefer (10 points) also scored in double-figures on the evening. Garber and Neal grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Stewart finished with nine points, four rebounds, nine assists and four steals.
The Lady Rams shot 39.3 percent from the field for the game and 30.8 percent from behind the arc.
Beckley finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Gardner finished with 20 points. Shippensburg shot 37.5 percent and 30 percent from behind the arc. The Red Raiders won the rebounding battle 42-33.
CLEARING THE NOTEBOOK
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Megan Stewart. The junior guard filled up the stat sheet once again as she scored nine points, dished out nine assists, grabbed four rebounds and recorded four steals. Stewart became the seventh player in school history to dish out 300 or more assists in a career.
UPCOMING GAMES: This week West Chester travels to Cope Hall to face cross-town rival Cheyney University on Wednesday at 6 p.m. On Saturday, the Lady Rams host Bloomsburg University in their annual Pink Zone game beginning at 1 p.m. Both games can be heard live and exclusively on 91.7 WCUR-FM.
WHERE THEY STAND: West Chester sits in fourth place in the PSAC East behind Millersville, Kutztown and Bloomsburg.
LJ Harrell is a fourth-year student majoring in Marketing. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu.