After a holiday break which included losing five of their last six games, four of which were on the road, and losing star forward Katie Kline, the West Chester University Lady Rams (9-6, 1-0 PSAC East) opened up PSAC Eastern Division play at Hollinger Field House with a 68-56 victory over the visiting Kutztown University Lady Bears (8-9, 1-1 PSAC East).
“We are definitely happy. After our two loses last weekend (IUP and Clarion) at the end of the West schedule, we came out all week and said that we have a clean slate now, it’s the East and it’s ours to take,” junior guard Natalie Winters said of winning the PSAC East opener. “I think coming out strong like this is very important.”
The first half started as a back and forth affair between both teams. Kutztown held an early lead but West Chester was able to finish the first half on an 18-5 run. This included two consecutive quick scores at the end of the half for Catherine Andrews, to give the home team a twelve point advantage heading into the locker room at the half.
West Chester shot a staggering 52.9 percent from the field in the first half. Winters shot 2-3 from behind the arc in the half and led the Golden Rams with ten points. Rachel Weidensaul led all scorers in the first half with 12 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field.
“It was definitely important. It was not only important mentally for us, mentally for Kutztown, but for the players on the floor too to realize that they can put on a run like that,” head coach Deirdre Kane said of the run to close the half. “We are capable of doing that at any time. But as much as we put on that run, we had a drought. We scored the first two points, and then had a seven or eight minute drought in the second half. The bench held up. They did a great job, and we played great defense.”
The Golden Rams came out in the second half and never let the lead dip below five points. West Chester kept pressure on Kutztown as they forced 16 turnovers and scored 21 points off of the turnovers. The defense held the Golden Bears to 36.5 percent shooting from the field and 29.2 percent from three-point range.
“Defense was key. Kutztown plays very solid man-to-man defense and they are hard to score on, but we scored in transition. Active hands, getting tips, getting the ball out and running, we played with two point guards for awhile to help our transition, defense was definitely the key,” Kane said of the defensive prowess of her team.
Freshman point guard Megan Stewart stepped in and played a big role in the Lady Rams victory. While only finishing with four points, she recorded eight assists and eight rebounds.
“She does different things. This past weekend she was our leading scorer. She had 19 and 12 against IUP and Clarion, not to shabby. She had four points today, but she had eight assists, eight rebounds, and no turnovers. She’s very versatile,” Kane said of the young point guard.
Dana Weems chipped in big finishing with 12 points, 12 rebounds, four steals, two assists, and one block.
“That’s perfect. That’s what we need from her every game. She needs to play within herself. I give her all the credit in the world. She ‘s really a perimeter player. When Katie Kline went down we asked her to go inside for us,” Kane said of Weems unselfish contribution to the team. “It’s hard. They are all bigger than her. She’s a strong explosive women, but she’s little to be inside in this conference.”
West Chester shot 40.6 percent from the field for the game and 77.8 percent from the charity stripe. Winters led the Lady Rams with 16 points. Weems led the team in rebounds with 12, and Stewart led the team in assists with eight.
CLEARING THE NOTEBOOK
*PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dana Weems. The junior forward was a spark plug for the Lady Rams this past week. She averaged just under 14 points per game and just over eight rebounds per game.
*UPCOMING GAMES: Welcome to rivalry week. This week the Lady Rams travel to face the Cheyney University Wolves on Wednesday and the East Stroudsburg University Warriors on Saturday.
*WHERE THEY STAND: In the PSAC East, the Lady Rams now stand tied with East Stroudsburg in second place behind the Millersville University Marauders.
LJ Harrell is a second-year student majoring in business. He can be reached at LH639694@wcupa.edu