No matter how easy or hard, a win is a win in the mind of Shippensburg University men’s basketball coach Chris Fite after the Raiders’ 101-74 drubbing of the Wilson College Phoenix on Wednesday night.
While the Phoenix hung around for the majority of the first half and the early portion of the second half, Shippensburg (3-0) eventually got into a groove and went on a run, pushing the lead to 20 and pummeling all hope of a Wilson College (1-2) comeback.
“I told the guys tonight, I’m just happy it’s a win,” Fite said. “We’re 3-0 right now and we know that there’s a lot of room for improvement. The positive in that is if we keep working and keep on the right trajectory, hopefully, we’ll be peaking at the right time in a couple of months.”
Leading the Raiders in the scoring column was junior forward John Castello, who ended the night with an incredibly efficient 19 points on 7-9 shooting from the floor in just 24 minutes.
“He’s [Castello] been very dependable for us from day one and he has to assume a bigger role this year, he knows that,” Fite said. “And he certainly these first three games, he’s stepped up and he works his butt off so he deserves all the success he’s having.”
Castello also played stout on the defensive end, rejecting two shots and coming away with two steals.
Shippensburg had three other players score in double-digits in the win as sophomore guard Jake Biss followed up his impressive debut weekend as the team’s starting point guard with a career-high 17 points.
“It’s huge for us and it’s imperative this year that he plays that way. And it’s new to him,” Fite said of Biss’s scoring mentality. “We’re encouraging him to be a little more aggressive and he still needs to take a little bit more care of the ball from time-to-time but that comes with being more aggressive and putting yourself in situations where you’re in attack mode. But he’s playing great for us and we hope that he keeps growing and continues to embrace that scoring role.”
Redshirt-freshman Dom Sleva and junior Jermaine Samuel also pitched in with double-digit scoring performances off of the bench for the Raiders. Sleva chipped in 12 points while also dishing out four assists and Samuel was a spark plug during his 13 minutes of game-time, racking up 12 points and six rebounds.
“I thought the guys off of our bench did a nice job and everybody contributed on the offensive end. And we just as a group, individually and collectively, we need to be better defensively,” Fite said. “But I thought both those guys [Sleva and Samuel] did great tonight.”
Seniors Antonio Kellem and Manny Span played large roles in the win, particularly during the game-sealing run in the second half. Kellem finished the night with just eight points but handed out a team-high and a career-high eight assists. Span put up eight points and pulled down six rebounds, four of which were offensive, during his 15 minutes of action in the victory.
The Raiders traveled to take on California University of Pennsylvania Saturday at 7 p.m.