The 2014-2015 men’s basketball season got underway this past weekend when the team traveled to West Virginia to take part in the Joe Retton Classic. In this tournament, they would match up against West Virginia Wesleyan College, and Fairmont State University.
The Golden Rams will try to fix some things this season, and fill some holes, as they have a lot of new faces this season. The Golden Rams are only returning four guys, which means they have eight new faces on the bench. Coach Blair will have to see which guys work best with whom, and what lineup gives them the best chance to win. As for trying to do better than last season, that might be tough. West Chester went 20-10 last season, losing to East Stroudsburg in the PSAC Championship game. However, they got a bid into the NCAA Division II Tournament, and lost a heartbreaker to Indiana (Pa.) 75-68. West Chester will look to take the PSAC crown this year, and go as deep into the Division II tournament as possible. But first thing’s first, one game at a time.
The first game was on Friday against West Virginia Wesleyan College. For the first five minutes of the game, the teams went back and forth, exchanging buckets, and playing the seesaw game. However, after those five minutes it was all West Chester. It started when Parrish Grant converted on a traditional three-point play, making his layup and the foul. He then converted on the free throw, and West Virginia Wesleyan could not convert on a three of their own, Avery Brown of West Chester hit a three pointer, making the score 14-5.
West Chester dominated the rest of the first half. More specifically, senior Cory Blake was on fire. He had 15 first half points and three rebounds, all while missing only one shot. The second half was more of the same, as West Chester did not allow West Virginia Wesleyan to come closer then 16 points of them. They won the first game of the Joe Retton Classic quite easily, 73-54.
Blake led the team with 23 points while adding five rebounds, two assists and a steal. Brown added 15 for the Golden Rams, while junior Matt Wiseley, who played the most minutes on the team led the team in rebounds and assists with six each. Wiseley is returning as the leading rebounder for the Golden Rams, and he has now moved into the starting lineup, as he will play a crucial role for the Golden Rams all season.
Next up for the Golden Rams was a very tough match up against Fairmont State University. The Fighting Falcons went 20-11 last year, playing some very tough opponents throughout the season. West Chester knew that this was going to be a lot tougher of a game than their first one was.
The game was very physical from the opening tip-off. It was so physical that each team received a technical foul in attempt for the referees to not lose the game. For the first ten minutes of the game, each team went back and forth, but Fairmont State was able to create some wiggle room in the score being up by at least five throughout the entire first half. That was until the last four minutes of the half, when West Chester got some timely shooting from junior transfer Logan Stumpf, and Mike Wilson as they hit back-to-back-to-back threes. One from Stumpf and two from Wilson. Those nine points allowed West Chester to make it a one-possession game heading into halftime, 40-37.
Wilson was the lone scorer in double-digits the first half, as he had 14 points. Blake was next with six points. West Chester knew their offense would have to wake up in order for them to win this game.
The last thing that West Chester wanted to do was come out flat to start the second half, and unfortunately for West Chester, that is what happened. Fairmont State started the second half on an 11-0 run, to give them a 14-point lead. It was two missed three-pointers and three turnovers that put them in the hole. And for the rest of the game they would now have to try to dig themselves out of this hole. Throughout the half, West Chester would get as close as three, but could never get over the hump, and a small run by Fairmont State with 90 seconds left in the game seemed like it would be impossible for them to overcome. But the Golden Rams did not go away. With the score 81-72 with 1:16 left in the game, West Chester started to turn it around. After a missed layup by West Chester’s Grant Parrish, Matt Wiseley grabbed an offense rebound and tipped it back in to cut the lead to seven. Fairmont State then turned the ball over and Parrish came down and hit a three to cut it to a four-point deficit. Wil Martinez of Fairmont State went 1-2 at the free throw line, keeping it at a one possession game for the Golden Rams with 38 seconds remaining.
Parrish was then fouled by Shammgod Wells and made both free throws to cut it to a one-possession game, 82-79. Fairmont State then missed their next two free throws after a foul by Avery Brown, and West Chester came down with a chance to tie the game. Mike Wilson, one of West Chester’s best shooters got an open look from three, and it just rimmed out, and the rebound going to Fairmont State, and Wiseley, who in turn fouled out, fouled Fairmont State’s Thomas Wimbush, immediately. Wimbush made both free throws to push the score to 84-79, but West Chester would still not go away. With 11 seconds left in the game, Parrish Grant hit another three, putting them within two. West Chester obviously had to foul, and Fairmont State hit both free throws putting them up four. Then Fairmont State’s Trevor Andrews-Evans committed the ultimate no-no. He fouled Grant’s attempt at a three-pointer, giving Grant three free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining.
Grant hit all three free throws to make it a one-point game. West Chester then quickly fouled Wil Martinez with 2.4 seconds on the clock. He made both free throws, and then Fairmont State called a timeout. West Chester was able to set up a play with 2.4 seconds to try and go the length of the court to tie it up and send it to overtime with a three. Logan Stumpf was passing the ball in. As Stumpf passed the ball in, two West Chester players collided with each other, whether it was miscommunication or just a mistake it unknown, but Stumpf was clearly passing to a spot on the court and when they ran into each other, no one was there besides Chase Morgan of Fairmont State which sealed the deal for the win. West Chester’s valiant effort would come up short, and they would fall 89-85, making them 1-1 on the season.
Mike Wilson would lead West Chester with 21 points, but it was the great shooting, and decisions by Parrish Grant that kept them in the game at the end. He finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
It was a very good effort for West Chester to fight back, ultimately falling short. It is still very early in the season, and that was a worth opponent. Coach Blair and company will work on what needs to be worked on and they will be ready for the home PSAC opener against Millersville on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. West Chester split the season series last year, wining at home, but falling on the road. They will do everything in their power to not fall below .500 early in the season.
Ryan Calpin is a third-year student majoring in communications with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at RC784188@wcupa