T he men’s basketball team remained hot this past week as they blew out Kutztown 96-67 Wednesday on the road and dispatched Bloomsburg with ease 96-75 at home on Saturday.
Wednesday evening, West Chester (17-6) traveled to take on Kutztown (5-19) for their third consecutive road game. The Golden Rams used their efficient offense and shut down defense to jump all over the Bears, en route to a 21-3 lead. For the rest of the first half, they slowly added more and more distance between themselves and Kutztown going into the locker room 30 points ahead, 50-20.
The second half was played pretty much on cruise control as the Rams kept a comfortable lead throughout the final 20 minutes. The closest Kutztown got was 18 at the 11:30 mark, but that was quickly pushed back up into the 20s. West Chester went on to cruise to the 29-point victory, 96-67.
Junior guard Jaleel Mack led the way for the high-scoring Rams, pouring in 16 points. Junior guard Troy Hockaday scored 13 and senior forward Harley Williamson added 12 off the bench. Senior guard Jon Breeden also scored 10 while leading the team with four assists. Sophomore forward Corey Blake led the effort on the boards accumulating 10 rebounds in the contest.
Saturday afternoon’s match-up was more than just a showdown between PSAC East foes West Chester and Bloomsburg (7-16). It was West Chester’s Play 4Kay game in which the school raises money for women’s cancer research. It is also the day in which the team honored its three seniors; Breeden, Williamson, and guard Carl Johnson.
“It felt good being able to make it to my senior year healthy and have my number one fan along with me,” said Breeden. “My mother is the key to my success. She has always encouraged me when others doubted. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to win because I knew my teammates were going to play extra hard for the seniors.”
Williamson was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time all season, and made an instant impact, scoring six of West Chester’s first seven points.
“It felt good, allowed me to be a spark that set the tempo for the rest of the game,” said Williamson on being in the starting five. “And with this being one of my last home games, it’s important to keep the momentum going in order to make the season go on as long as possible.”
After setting the tempo early, Williamson turned the game over to the senior guards, whose respective skills make his job that much easier.
“Carl is a phenomenal offensive threat and a feisty defender making my job easier on both sides of the court,” admits Williamson. “John is a player with great vision and basketball IQ that allows us to stay in the offense that opens up shots for the bigs.”
This game also marked the return of Johnson to the starting lineup after missing six games due to a hamstring injury.
“I tell Carl every time that he is my favorite player,” said Breeden. “He has a smooth crossover and he is a tough defender. Harley is a good leader and showed tonight how valuable he is to the team.”
As far as the game goes, the opening tip was as close as the visiting Huskies got. The Golden Rams jumped out to a 19-7 lead over the first six-plus minutes. The West Chester lead swelled to 22 by the eight-minute mark in the first half and they took a 19-point lead into the half, 53-34.
The second half showcased much of the same as the first half. The Golden Rams continued their offensive prowess despite their starters spending most of the half on the bench. The lead got to as much as 36 with just under six minutes remaining and if not for a Bloomsburg scoring spurt in the closing minutes, the result could have been even worse for the visiting team. The final score was 96-75 in a game that was not nearly as close as the final score indicated. For the second game in a row, the Golden Rams reached a season high of 96 points.
The seniors led the way as Johnson scored a team high 18 points, and while Breeden only scored four points, he controlled the tempo of the game by dishing out a team high of six assists and coming up with three steals. Blake poured in 13 points of his own and grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. Mack and junior guard Shannon Givens scored 11 points apiece. Eleven different Golden Rams scored in what is best described as a team effort with 42 of the team’s 96 points coming from the bench. Ten different players recorded at least 10 minutes of playing time and as a team, they shot an incredible 48.5 percent from the field.
West Chester will look to continue its winning ways as they host Shippensburg (7-16) on Wednesday at 8 p.m. This is the final regular season home game for the Golden Rams, but as they have virtually locked up a top two seed in the PSAC East, they will host one game in the PSAC Tournament. On Saturday, the Rams will travel to East Stroudsburg (20-3) to take on the first place Warriors. West Chester currently sits two games behind the Warriors for the top seed in the East and needs a victory in order to have a chance to catch them. The game will tip-off at approximately 3 p.m.
The Rams have been almost unbeatable in 2013, winning 12 of their 14 games with both losses coming without Johnson, perhaps West Chester’s most dynamic player.
Riley Wallace is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at RW718681@wcupa.edu.