A lot was on the line for the men’s basketball team as they approached the final regular season game of the season. It was a home match up against a red-hot Mansfield team.
It was also West Chester’s Senior Night, as they recognized two seniors who have been in the program for four years, Cory Blake and Eric Frans. Both players have been crucial parts in West Chester’s success over the years, and Coach Blair knows they will be missed. But this was not yet the end of the road, as they were going to do everything they could to elongate their West Chester basketball careers.
Mansfield has struggled throughout the season, but they were coming in on a four-game win streak, including two big wins against East Stroudsburg and Bloomsburg. If they were able to beat West Chester, they would secure the sixth and final spot for the PSAC playoffs. As for West Chester, if they were able to win and Kutztown lost to East Stroudsburg they would have secured the second seed, which included a bye and a quarterfinal home playoff game. So a lot was on the line for both teams and both teams knew that.
The beginning of the game was a little sloppy and you could see there were some nerves coming from both sides. Both teams were making uncharacteristic turnovers and mistakes, and neither team could jump out to a strong start, and after the first 11 minutes of play the game was tied at 20 apiece. After the nerves settled down, both teams started playing their brand of basketball.
For Mansfield, the big three that West Chester had to watch out for were Joe Bell, Charles Pemberton, and Thomas Moore. Bell averages over 16 points a game, while Pemberton is the reigning PSAC defensive player of the year.
But West Chester was ready for them, and they were very aggressive on the offensive side of the ball, putting pressure on the big three, and getting them in foul trouble early on in the game. Bell and Moore each had two fouls at halftime, which allowed West Chester to really attack the bench of Mansfield. They were getting everything that they wanted on the offensive side of the ball, getting to the rack and if they did not convert, they got the charity stripe and were able to cash in. They compiled 51 first half points on 21-24 shooting from the free-throw line. They also were 6-10 from beyond the three-point arc, including 3-3 for senior Cory Blake.
Mansfield was able to cash in on a five-point swing at the end of the first half, as West Chester turned the ball over which led to a three-pointer on the other end, and then a driving layup at the buzzer was cashed in by backup point guard Eric Lewis, to cut what would have been a 17-point lead for West Chester to a 12-point deficit for Mansfield heading into the halftime locker rooms trailing 51-39.
In the second half, the lead that West Chester fought so hard for quickly disappeared as Bell and Moore were able to get on a roll a little bit. With just seven minutes gone by in the second half, Mansfield was able to cut the lead to three, only trailing 60-57.
Then entered Mike Wilson. Wilson has had his struggles in the past few games, and he quickly picked up two fouls in the first half, which only allowed him to play one minute. As he entered in the second half he was ready to go. West Chester was stuck in the mud offensively and they desperately needed a spark on offense. He came down the floor and hit two huge back-to-back three-pointers to extend the lead back to eight. They then clamped back down on the defensive end, causing turnovers, and began to be aggressive on offense, which put Mansfield back in a tough situation. Both Moore and Bell fouled out before the under four minute-media timeout. That meant that they had to rely on Pemberton to try and keep them in this game.
It was too much for Pemberton and company to handle, as West Chester was able to keep Mansfield at arms length for the rest of the game, and come away with a victory of 90-78. Parrish Grant led West Chester with 19 points including 12 points from the free-throw line. Matt Wiseley also chipped in with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Wiseley finished second in the PSAC in rebounding averaging 8.4 a game.
With the loss Mansfield fell out of the PSAC playoff race, as they finished 7th, one spot out of the playoffs. With the West Chester win they finished the season 16-12, and 13-8 in the PSAC, and they were awaiting the result of the Kutztown East Stroudsburg match up to see if they would be receiving a bye. Luckyily for West Chester, East Stroudsburg was able to defeat Kutztown. West Chester would receive the second seed, and a bye, as Kutztown dropped down to the third seed, and would have to face Shippensburg in the first round, with the winner facing West Chester in a quarterfinal match on Tuesday.
Kutztown defeated Shippensburg 77-54 on Saturday, meaning that they would head to West Chester on Tuesday to face for the third time this season. West Chester beat Kutztown both times this season, but both games were instant classics. [pullquote align=”center”]We will have to play our best game if we want to be able to move on into the semi-finals.[/pullquote]
The first time they defeated Kutztown was earlier on in the season and Wiseley hit game-clinching free throws in the final seconds to win 63-60. The next time the two faced each at Kutztown the two teams put on a show that the fans would remember for a long, long time. West Chester escaped with a 97-96 win in four overtimes. And again Wiseley was able to hit the clinching free throws, as they finally were able to get a lead in the final overtime. He finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
So this playoff game, and the final episode between these two teams in bound to be spectacular. Wiseley said, “They are a very good team, and we will have to play our best game if we want to be able to move on into the semi-finals.”
The game will take place at 7:30 p.m. inside Hollinger Field House as West Chester will do everything they can to try and make a run in the PSAC tournament and be selected to the NCAA tournament for the second season in a row.
Ryan Calpin is a third-year student majoring in communications with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at RC784188@wcupa