The Shippensburg University men’s basketball team put an exclamation point on another 20-win regular season with a pair of wins this week over West Chester and Bloomsburg universities.
As seeding for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships hung in the balance, Shippensburg (22-6, 16-4 PSAC) needed to win its final two games and have several other conference matchups fall in its favor to secure a first-round bye.
Wednesday night, SU defeated PSAC East rival WCU (20-7, 16-4) by a score of 91- 86 on senior night at Heiges Field House. It was a back-and-forth contest that contained 15 lead changes.
WCU closed the first half on an 8-0 run to take a 38–37 halftime lead, and then went on to extend its lead to nine early in the second half.
But a 17–3 Shippensburg run midway through the second half gave the Raiders a 66-60 lead with 8:26 remaining.
West Chester managed to take the lead back again, 70–69, on a 3-pointer from Malik Jackson with less than four minutes to play. But an immediate 8–0 run by SU – followed by a 9-of-14 finish from the free-throw line – was enough to close the door on the resilient Golden Rams.
“These guys didn’t waver for a second,” coach Chris Fite said of his players after the game. “They stayed together, picked each other up and kept encouraging one another.”
Sophomore Jake Biss poured in a career-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field and an efficient 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Biss also dished out six assists and grabbed four rebounds.
“The game’s slowing down for me a little,” Biss said. “[I’m] seeing the floor a little better, finding my spots, knocking shots down when they’re open.”
Seniors Antonio Kellem and Manny Span each showed up big-time on Senior Night. Kellem scored 21 points, 14 of which came in the second half. He tallied six rebounds and four assists. Span filled up the stat sheet with eight points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals.
On a night where the senior duo was honored for its contributions over the past four years, Fite rained down praise on his seniors.
“I’m so proud of them as young men and individuals off the court, as well as for all they’ve accomplished on the court,” Fite said. “They’ve made my job easy.”
Junior John Castello played his usual tough game inside, scoring seven points and grabbing seven rebounds. Junior Lamar Talley hit four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points.
Talley’s four 3-pointers contributed to SU’s best performance of the season from deep. The Raiders hit a season-high 13 3-pointers, shooting at a 43 percent rate from behind the arc.
Shippensburg then wrapped up regular season play Saturday at Bloomsburg (7-19, 3-17 PSAC) with a dominant 88-50 win over the Huskies.
SU took a commanding 42-24 lead into halftime and was able to coast the rest of the way. Biss scored 21 points in the first half on his way to a game-high 25 points on the afternoon. He was incredibly efficient from the field, shooting 11-of-14 while also recording four assists.
The sophomore guard is on a tear as the Raiders head into the postseason. Biss has scored 22 points or more in six consecutive games, averaging 24.8 points per game over that span. He’s also shooting a blistering 54 percent (19-of-35) from 3-point range over that stretch.
Kellem contributed in multiple stat categories, complementing his 18 points with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Castello had 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and a career-high three blocks.
Span made his presence felt everywhere, scoring eight points, notching nine rebounds and recording a career-high five assists.
Freshman Carlos Carter and junior Daylon Carter each contributed seven points and five rebounds. SU dominated on the glass Saturday, pulling down a season-high 53 rebounds in the contest. The Raiders also matched a season high with 21 assists.
“The atmosphere here is great. The fans and everyone that shows up – it’s amazing,” Kellem said after the win over West Chester. “It helps us get over the hump sometimes, like tonight.”
The Raiders now set their sights on the postseason, which begins with the PSAC Championships this week. Shippensburg will host Lock Haven University on Monday at 7 p.m. at Heiges Field House, where the squad will look to feed off the home crowd.