Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Golden Rams outlast ESU in high-scoring contest
In a score fest that was just about as entertaining as it gets, the West Chester men outlasted East Stroudsburg 106-98 at rollicking Hollinger Field House on Wednesday.
It marked WCU’s first regular season sweep of the Warriors in 14 years. But more importantly, it moved the Golden Rams into a third place tie in the PSAC East at 12-6 (17-7 overall) along with ESU.
“It was exciting,” said West Chester head coach Damien Blair. “It was fun, beating pressure and hitting shots. (East Stroudsburg) ran into a buzz saw.
“I really believe they thought they were going to run over us. It’s good to beat them twice in a season. They are always a good team.”
There were loads of big plays and epic battles for just about every rebound – and the Rams had the edge in both. They were plus-11 on the glass, and WCU’s starting backcourt was outstanding, combining to score 67 points.
“Our guards have had some struggles, but they are
better than that,” Blair said. “This is what we get when they play well.”
Shooting guard Elijah Allen was electric, especially in the second half, both on the break and from distance. He poured in a career-high
29 points which included five 3-pointers. Fellow sophomore Robert Smith added 27 points, and junior point guard Kyle McGee notched a triple double with 11 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
“I think we have one of the strongest backcourts in the PSAC with Kyle, Robert and myself,” Allen said. “I’m hoping today was like a preview because we haven’t had many games where we are all clicking like tonight. Robert and I were hitting shots tonight. And even though Kyle didn’t have his best shooting night, he still contributed in other ways.”
It all added up to the most points West Chester has ever scored against ESU in 162 meetings dating all the way back to 1927. It was also the last win over the Warriors (12-6, 18-6) at Hollinger since 2018.
“It was a fun game, but it was a big game too,” Allen said.
The Rams got five points from Smith to spearhead a 10-3 rally that gave West Chester a 98-82 lead with 4:23 to go. But East Stroudsburg promptly scored the next eight straight to slice the margin back to single digits.
With 77 second remaining, Allen scored inside and then McGee went 3-for-4 in the final minute from the free throw line to close it out.
Against ESU’s defensive pressure, WCU found a way to turn many situations into fast break opportunities at the other end. A prime example came early in the second half, when Allen got down the court against the press, scored and was fouled. He completed the 3-point play and also drew the fourthfoul on ESU standout Lakeem McAliley with 14:50 on the clock. McAliley later fouled out.
“It’s important to execute the game plan,” Allen said. “(East Stroudsburg’s) pressure is their bread and butter. We capitalized on it tonight and it felt good.”
In the second half alone, Allen scored 18 points and knocked down 3 of 5 from 3-point range. And with each make, he stepped back and continued to make more from deeper and deeper.
“As a shooter, once you see one shot go in, the rim gets bigger,” he said. “And then with each bucket, it gets bigger and your range moves back.”
The Rams led by as much as 18 in the first half as McAliley was saddled with foul trouble. But the Warriors fought back to make it 56-45 at the half. It was also the most points in a half scored by WCU all season.
“I think our guys have a high level of confidence, but when things aren’t going your way, it’s not as high as you want it to be,” Blair explained. “I told (Allen) the other day that he is going to make it happen. Tonight, he was special and it was good to see him knock down some shots.”
With four regular season games to play, West Chester has already earned its way into the PSAC Tournament. The rest of the way will be all about jockeying for position between division rivals Shippensburg (13-4), Millersville (14-5), West Chester (126), ESU (12-6) and Lock Haven (12-7).
“I personally think the way the league is structured it is very lopsided,” Blair complained. “The (PSAC) West games count and we played the three toughest teams in the West – that hurts us.
“Right now we have to figure out a way to get that second seed, or put ourselves in position so that there is a path to the (PSAC Semifinals).”