Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
WCU wins 10th straight, takes over first
WEST CHESTER >> It happened, quite unceremoniously, back in mid-January. The West Chester women notched basketball victory number 10 to surpass the win total for each of the previous two seasons.
And now, four weeks later, the Golden Rams haven’t lost since, now own a 10-game win streak, and are in sole possession of first place in the PSAC East, a half-game ahead of Shippensburg. The latest was an impressive 72-54 win Wednesday over visiting East Stroudsburg.
“In previous years we had to rely on (junior guard) Leah (Johnson) as our primary scoring threat,” WCU head coach Kiera Wooden said. “Now, she can show off her passing abilities because we have more threats surrounding her.
“If an opponent looks to stop one of our players, we have three, four or five other people who can step up. It makes us harder to guard and harder to prepare for. It gives us more options.”
It was on clear display at Hollinger Field House against the Warriors. Fourteen players got into the game and four scored in double figures as the Rams (14-4, 17-7) led from start to finish. And WCU is doing it as a unit, not with one or two dominant individuals.
With the outcome still in doubt into the final period, West Chester took command with a 14-0 rally that emphatically ended any ESU comeback hopes. And it was particularly telling that six different Rams scored during the rally that made it 64-42 with 7:02 to go.
“It makes it more fun that we have a deep team that is versatile and can score,” said sophomore forward Mia Kozicki. “(Opponents) have to defend our entire lineup and they can’t focus on one person.”
The win also secured a top-two finish in the division, which means not just a spot in the PSAC Tournament, but a first round bye and a second round home game.
“It’s always the goal to secure one of the top-two spots because you want that bye and you get a home game,” Wooden said. “But we are not resting on that. We are obviously going for the top spot and we do that by focusing on the next game and trying to get better with each game.”
Next is a trip to Shepherd (W.Va.), followed by three more to end the regular season.
“I am just proud of our team,” said Kozicki, a transfer from La Salle. “A lot of us are new and I was kind of thinking this would be a transition season. I thought we’d all need to get to know each other, but halfway through the season, we started to click and it was like, hey, we can do some damage.”
A burgeoning frontcourt was one of the main reasons WCU led 34-22 at the break. Kozicki scored 15 of her 17 in the first two quarters, and then frontcourt mate Emily McAteer (Loyola, Md. Transfer) poured in 15 of her 17 in the second half. Kozicki added a game-high 13 rebounds.
“Once we started clicking this season, we realized we are a dangerous team to play against because everyone is a threat,” McAteer said.
“We go into games knowing we have to rebound and execute our sets,” Kozicki added. “We are going to score if we do that.”
The lead ballooned to 18 early in the third quarter until ESU (9-9, 13-11) cut it to single digits with a 12-2 surge, and it was 51-40 heading into the fourth. For the game, WCU was plus-20 on the boards and had a 3824 edge with points in the paint.
“It’s not even just our post play, it’s our guards being able to get in the paint with dribble drives,” Wooden pointed out.
Sophomore forward, and University of the Sciences transfer, Anna McTamney added 11 points and eight rebounds, and Johnson chipped in 10 points with seven assists and four boards.
“At this point I am much more comfortable with everything,” McAteer said. “I can sort of read what my teammates are going to do before they do it. That’s really important in this game.”