After being down by as many as 13 points at halftime, the West Chester University women’s basketball team rallied on the strength of a pair of veteran players and an unlikely source off the bench to defeat Kutztown 75-67 at Hollinger Field House Wednesday night.
“They’ve had our number for the past two years,” West Chester head coach Deirdre Kane said after the game of a Kutztown team that had defeated the Rams in the last four meetings.
The Golden Rams (12-3, 3-0 PSAC East) trailed the Golden Bears (8-7, 1-2 PSAC East) 38-25 at after struggling to hit a field goal late in the first half. However, senior Megan Stewart scored 12 of her game high 22 points in the game’s final 20 minutes – including five during West Chester’s 12-4 run to start the second half – as the Rams maintained the top spot in the PSAC East heading into today’s showdown at Millersville.
The early part of the first half saw seven ties and five lead changes between the two potential playoff teams. The game was tied at 15-15 with 13:19 left in the first half before the Bears roared out to a 23-10 run leading to halftime.
During that 13 minute stretch, the Rams had a tough time scoring, managing to shoot 3-for-19 from the field after converting six of their first nine field goals. West Chester went through a seven minute stretch without a field goal.
The Bears, meanwhile, went 7-for-20 in the final 13 minutes of the first half. Kutztown also went to the foul line nine times in that run (making six free throws), while West Chester didn’t attempt a foul shot.
“We were flat later in the first half,” Stewart said. “We just weren’t ourselves.”
“(Kutztown) was burning us too much from the outside,” Kane said of the Bears, particularly sophomore Ashley Wood, who scored 17 of her team high 20 points in the first half.
The Rams came out in the second half firing on all cylinders as three-pointers by Jill Keefer and Stewart boosted the Rams in a 12-4 run during the first four minutes of the half. Stewart’s three ball came from about 25 feet out as the shot clock was about to expire. By the time the teams took the first media time out of the second half, West Chester cut the lead to 42-37 with 15:17 left in regulation.
After the Bears answered with a 7-2 run to make it 49-39 following a pair of Brittany Levan free throws, the Rams fired back, scoring 14 unanswered points to take the lead for good.
During that run, Alex Lennon, who was held to 10 points for the game on an unusually low 5-for-16 shooting night, chipped in four points. However, it was a pair of three pointers from two reserves that were critical in West Chester’s drive to the lead.
Meghan Kerrigan’s three pointer was her only basket of the game, but it cut the Kutztown lead to 49-48; Lennon’s layup, followed by a three-ball from Ambreelinne Ortman closed out the game changing run to give the Rams a 53-49 lead with 8:11 left in regulation.
Melissa McQuade, Kutztown’s leading scorer who was held to eight points in the game on 7-for-14 shooting (3-for-4 from three point range), briefly halted the bleeding for the Bears with a three pointer to make it 53-52 West Chester leading into the third media time out of the half.
Kutztown’s Ashley Wood tied the game at 55-55 with a three pointer, however, Ortman, a sophomore from Millville (located just north of Bloomsburg in Columbia County) hit a layup with 6:06 left in regulation to give the Rams the lead for good.
“I didn’t it realize at that point,” Ortman said of her crucial layup. “But, now I realize it’s awesome.”
West Chester would outscore Kutztown 20-12 the rest of the way.
“We have players who can step up and hit shots,” Stewart said of her teammates. “It makes it hard for other teams to guard us.”
“We missed too many shots, and we committed too many turnovers in the second half,” Kutztown head coach Janet Malouf said of the Bears’ performance in the second half. Kutztown committed 10 of their 19 turnovers in the second half, while West Chester, after turning the ball over 12 times in the first half, only committed three.
Though, ultimately, what led the Rams to the win was their ability to overcome an off night from one of their team’s leading scorers.
“They’re a lot deeper than we war,” Malouf said of a West Chester roster which boasts three of the conference’s top 15 scorers.
Keefer and Allison Hostetter each finished with 13 points; Hostetter also pulled down 14 rebounds for a double-double. Lennon missed a double-double, added 9 boards to her 10 points while also blocking 5 shots.
Meredith Starr and Steph Zewe each added 13 points for Kutztown in a losing effort.
West Chester begins a three game road swing today with a showdown with a Millersville team that was selected to win the PSAC East in the pre-season coaches’ poll. Next week will be a critical week for the Rams, as they travel to Shippensburg on Wednesday and to Bloomsburg next Saturday.
Despite the Rams’ early success in league play, Kane cautioned that it was too early to start making plans for the PSAC Tournament, and, for that matter, West Chester’s first trip to the NCAA Division II tournament since the 2002-2003 season:
“Check back with me next week. It’s too early to talk first place.”
Creighton Rabs covers West Chester University athletics for glowbass.com. He is neither affiliated with nor employed by West Chester University. Feedback can be emailed to [email protected].