Never give up. Never ever give up. In the words of the late, great, Jim Valvano, the West Chester men’s basketball team honored his words on the court on Wednesday.
Coming off a thrilling 4 overtime win against Kutztown last week, West Chester had to refocus for a tough matchup at home against Lock Haven. Even though Lock Haven’s record is not the best, it does not dictate the amount of talent they put on the floor every game. Especially when it comes to Lock Haven’s superstar Wali Hepburn, who is the second leading scorer in the PSAC averaging just over 18 points a game.
West Chester figured out just how good he is right from the start, as Hepburn had five quick points, and West Chester knew they were going to have to do something about Hepburn if they wanted to have a chance to win this game.
Throughout the entire first half, the game was back and forth, no team really able to take control of the game or the pace, and at halftime Lock Haven took a two-point lead into the locker room, 33-31. At halftime Hepburn had 11 points, five assists, and four rebounds, and he was officially on a triple-double watch. As for West Chester, Avery Brown had eight, and Mike Wilson had seven, while point guard Parrish Grant was on the assisting end of six baskets for the Golden Rams.
Coming out for the second half, it was a little bit of a different story. For about nine minutes, the game continued to go back and forth, but with 11 minutes left in the game and Lock Haven leading 49-48, West Chester got stuck in mud. For the next five minutes of gameplay they did not score one point until 5:54. Not a free-throw, as they missed three, not a lay-up, or a jumper, or a three-pointer. They did not score a single point for five minutes and five seconds, and Lock Haven was able to balloon the lead to 14, 62-48. The difference in the game was Lock Haven failed to put West Chester away during their drought. Lock Haven missed free throws, and turned the ball over, and allowed West Chester to stick around and believe that they still had a shot to win this game, with over five minutes left. Could West Chester mount a comeback?
For the next three minutes West Chester was able to find a way to put the ball in the hoop again, the only problem being so was Lock Haven. West Chester gained no ground, and the score stood at 72-58 with just over two minutes remaining. And at this point Hepburn had recorded Lock Haven’s first ever recorded triple-double as he finished with 22 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. However, he only shot 7-12 from the free-throw line. Could that come back to haunt the Bald Eagles?
Down 14 with 2:13 seconds left to play, West Chester needed a hero. They needed someone that could make plays and, maybe try and win this game that West Chester needed to win so badly. Parrish Grant was that person. As West Chester took the ball down the court with two minutes remaining in the game down 14, Grant fired a pass to Mike Wilson who hit a tough three-point shot in the Lock Haven defense. Then a turnover by Al Blount of Lock Haven led to a lay-up and a foul on the other end for Parrish Grant. He converted on the lay-up, missed the free-throw, but a huge offensive rebound by Cory Blake led to a three-point attempt by Parrish Grant right in the defender’s face, and he knocked it down, and suddenly the lead went from 14 to six in a matter of 30 seconds. The next possession was déjà vu for Blount as Cory Blake and the West Chester defense forced a turnover, which led to a Ben Mingledough layup on the other end, and now the lead is four, and it had become realistic for a comeback.
After the two teams traded buckets, and Hepburn went one for two from the line, and the score was 75-70 with 1:10 remaining in regulation. After the free-throw miss, Hepburn committed a bad foul, which stopped the clock and put Grant on the free-throw line, and knocked them both down. On the other end West Chester forced a missed jumper and Wilson came down with the rebound, and Lock Haven fouled Grant again, and again he knocked them both down. West Chester was now trailing 75-74. As Lock Haven came down the floor looking for a bucket, they got the shot they wanted as Hepburn was open for three, but he could not knock it down, and Blake came down with the rebound. Who would West Chester turn to, down one with 20 seconds remaining? Lock Haven made the decision for them, as they fouled Grant for the third possession in a row, and he knocked them both down, going 6-6 from the line in the final minute of the game. Now West Chester had the lead and had to play defense for one possession. It was going to be Matt Wiseley, West Chester’s best defender against Wali Hepburn. Wiseley did a fantastic job as he forced an air ball, but Theo West of Lock Haven came down with the offensive rebound and got a good look at the basket. However, he could not get it to go, the ball was tipped out to Blount with two seconds remaining as he had to chuck up a tough fade-away three-pointer, and it was just off the mark, and the buzzer sounded.[pullquote align=”center”]We have really been coming together as a team, and everyone is stepping up and playing a big part in the recent success that we have had, and we just hope we will be able to continue it down the stretch.[/pullquote]
West Chester ended the game on a 17-4 run in the final two minutes of regulation to pull off one of the best comeback wins in WCU history. Grant finished the game with 19 points and 9 assists, as he was one of the main reasons they came back and won this game. But a great overall team effort led West Chester to their fifth straight victory.
A thrilling victory for West Chester, but another game had to be played on Saturday, and they would need to refocus as a good Shippensburg team was coming into town, and it was another must-win game for the Golden Rams if they wanted to stay in competition for that number two spot in the PSAC East.
Coming into the game, West Chester would have to worry about Dylan Edgar, who averages 16.5 points per game, and 9.3 rebounds per game. If they could contain him, they would have a good chance to win this game.
Contain him is exactly what they did, as he was in foul trouble all game and only finished with six points and five rebounds, as West Chester took the win 56-52. The score did not dictate how West Chester was able to control the pace throughout most of the game. Shippensburg did make a run late in the second half, as Justin McCarthur did everything he could to keep them in it, but in the end Avery Brown and Cory Blake led the way for the Golden Rams as they were able to capture their sixth straight victory and get ready for Bloomsburg to come into Hollinger Field House on Wednesday. Brown and Blake had 14 and 10 points respectively in the win. Junior Matt Wiseley said of his team’s play as of late, “We have really been coming together as a team, and everyone is stepping up and playing a big part in the recent success that we have had, and we just hope we will be able to continue it down the stretch.”
West Chester has four more games in the regular season, with three of them being at home, including a huge game against East Stroudsburg on Feb. 18. But for now they will prepare for Bloomsburg on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Ryan Calpin is a third-year student majoring in communications with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at RC784188@wcupaedu