The hard work of the Shippensburg University men’s basketball team this season resulted in the team being able to make it into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships tournament once again.
The Raiders — coming off of a season in which they made it all the way to the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship tournament — are poised to try to make it to the national tournament for the second straight season.
The easiest road for SU will be to win the PSAC tournament and guarantee themselves a spot in the DII national tournament.
The Raiders (22-6, 16-4 PSAC) finished the season in third place in the PSAC Eastern Division, securing a home playoff game against the Eastern Division’s No. 6 seed, Lock Haven University (12-14, 8-12 PSAC), in the first round of the PSAC Championships.
Being able to have a home playoff game is huge for the Raiders, a team that has been lights out in Heiges Field House this season. SU went 15–1 at home this season, including a big 100–70 win in the most recent meeting between LHU and SU.
One of the reasons for the team’s success at home is the raucous crowd that shows up and packs the stands for every home game.
“The atmosphere is great; I think people showing up and the pep band up there really helps us out. This is amazing and it helps us really get over that hump sometimes,” senior Antonio Kellem said.
The Raiders are coming into Monday night’s game against the Bald Eagles with a lot of confidence. They are on a five-game winning streak that includes wins over the Eastern Division’s No. 4 seed Millersville University and No. 2 seed West Chester University, the latter of which was just this week.
“Just know that we are capable of beating teams like this. Every team can steal a win from you sometimes,” Kellem said after the team’s win against the Golden Rams. “On the road, we have been struggling but I think we win a game like this, it’s easy to get your confidence up and start locking in.”
Lock Haven is one of the teams that gave the Raiders some trouble this season. Before beating the conference rivals 100–70 in front of a home crowd at Heiges, the Raiders were knocked off by Lock Haven, 59–58, on the road.
The importance of homecourt advantage should prove to be important on Monday, with both teams winning on their home floor.
“It’s huge. I’m happy to be playing at home. We don’t care where we have to go. We are excited to be in the playoffs,” coach Chris Fite said. “Last year, we went down to West Chester and won to get to the final four. If we have to go on the road, we will do it.”
The Raiders will have to confront their struggles on the road this season if they beat Lock Haven.
The winner of this PSAC Championship matchup will travel to take on West Chester (20-7, 16-4 PSAC) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Raiders take on Lock Haven University in the PSAC Championship First Round matchup at Heiges Field House on Monday at 7 p.m.