After surging through winter break and climbing their way into the Division II Top 25 National Coaches’ Poll, no. 20 ranked West Chester grabbed two more wins against conference opponents this past week.
Led by the outstanding play from top to bottom of the Golden Rams roster, West Chester retained their top spot in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) with the two impressive wins as a key match-up between another PSAC powerhouse approaches.
On Wednesday, Jan. 20, the struggling Millersville Marauders made their way to Hollinger Field House in hopes of playing spoiler against the Golden Rams. Millersville (2-15) was out hustled, out shot, and out played from the first tip by the Rams, leading to another Golden Rams victory, 101-59. The win for West Chester improved their record to 15-2, which ties the record for best start in school history.
West Chester shot at astronomical percentages in the contest, finishing 64 percent from the field and just under 72 percent from behind the three-point line. The Rams shot lights out throughout the whole game, but most prolifically in the first half, where they finished over 71 percent from the field and over 81 percent from beyond the arc.
Sharpshooters Avery Brown, Malik Jackson, and Mike Wilson lit the fire early on for West Chester, and were the keys to maintaining the dominant lead. Brown finished 4-6 from beyond the arc, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds, while Wilson and Jackson each finished 4-5 from distance, with 13 points apiece. The three combined were the leading scorers for West Chester, while two other Golden Rams, Matt Wiseley and Jordan Greene, also finished in double figures.
With the floodgates opening early on, West Chester head coach Damien Blair was able to look toward his bench to secure and hold the lead, a valuable learning experience for a team with big postseason aspirations. Greene, who has seen limited minutes all season, came on with nearly 10 minutes left in the second half and was able to play a vital role in keeping the large margin. Every Golden Ram on the active roster scored a point on Wednesday night, a promising sign for the young West Chester bench.
The win came as expected, but the stout shooting produced by the Golden Rams was a beautiful sight to see. At times, West Chester has struggled to consistently shoot the three ball, but shooting performances like Wednesday night are key for a team that features their jump shooters so heavily.
Following the dominant win Wednesday, West Chester looked to improve on a three game win streak when they traveled to Lock Haven University. Through the snow emergencies and blizzard conditions, the teams were still able to hit the court on Saturday afternoon, where West Chester grabbed their fourth straight victory over the Bald Eagles, 78-74.
Senior Captain Wiseley put on a dominant performance on the glass, grabbing a career high 24 rebounds in the victory. Before Saturday’s historical performance, Wiseley ranked second in the PSAC in rebounds and eighth in the entirety of division II basketball. The performance will likely improve on those rankings in the coming week. Wiseley also finished with 12 points, two blocks, an assist and a steal.
“We had a lot of energy today from the opening tip,” said Wiseley, who grabbed 12 of his 24 rebounds in the first 11 minutes of the game. “I was able to grab some offensive rebounds early, which gave us a chance for some second chance points.”
The Golden Rams didn’t shoot the ball particularly well on Saturday afternoon, finishing just over 44 percent from the field but a measly 25 percent from beyond the arc. Their 36 points in the paint were the ultimate factor in the resulting victory. The Golden Rams top scorer, Jackson, finished with a team-high 22 points, shooting 6-14 from the field, but a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe.
Jackson currently sits 11th in the PSAC in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game. The freshman has been a huge piece in the success of the Golden Rams this season, along with the entire strong freshman class brought in this season.
Freshman Matt Penecale has been a key piece in the Golden Rams’ success this season. The 6’3 point guard from Abington, Pa. has been the floor general for Coach Blair’s up tempo offense and has been reliable in his important position since the beginning of the season. On Saturday, Penecale played a team high 40 minutes in the win, finishing with 12 points and four rebounds.
This week’s two wins will keep the Golden Rams in the drivers seat of the PSAC, as the most important game of the season approaches. Kutztown, who is ranked no. 2 in the conference, will travel to Hollinger Field House on Wednesday night to take on West Chester in a battle for the no. 1 spot.
Last year, West Chester won both games of the series, with the second win coming in a four-overtime battle.
“Wednesday is big,” said Wiseley. “We know what we have to do.”
AJ Arcaini is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at AA788494@wcupa.edu.