The Shippensburg University men’s basketball team narrowly missed out on a spot in the NCAA Division II Championship tournament after losing in the quarterfinals of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) tournament to West Chester University, 89–72, on March 13 from the Golden Rams’ home court.
After an impressive and highly-contested 91–86 win against their conference rivals near the end of the regular season, the Raiders struggled mightily all game in the playoff rematch. West Chester began the game with a 14–0 run and held the lead for the rest of the game. The Raiders got blitzed early on and never seemed to be able to recover. They were outscored in the first half, 49–28, and just were not able to get anything going offensively or defensively in the half.
The Raiders ended Monday’s win against Lock Haven University on a poor note, scoring only two points in the final three minutes of the game. Their poor finish against the Bald Eagles seemed to have continued into the second round against the Golden Rams. SU seemed to be allergic to winning against LHU from Heiges Field House and had to endure a surge by its conference foes to hold for a one-point victory.
The Raiders shot 39.3 percent from the field in the first half, and West Chester took advantage to build up a big lead.
Shippensburg began to shoot the ball better from 3-point range in the second half, shooting 46.7 percent from beyond the arc in the second half. WCU, however, seemed to have a response for every Raider run.
The Raiders’ defense struggled against West Chester, allowing the Golden Rams to shoot 53.3 percent from the field. Senior Jackson Hyland led the Golden Rams in points with 21.
West Chester came into the game as one of the top rebounding teams in the nation and they dominated the boards against the Raiders. SU was outrebounded 45–30 and that played a big role in why the team wasn’t able to capture much momentum at any point in the game.
The Golden Rams played press defense through the entire game, making it difficult for the Raiders to set up any offense. The Raiders turned the ball over 13 times and it was clear that the team was struggling to get anything set up on offense.
Sophomore Jake Biss led the team in scoring with 19 points. Redshirt-freshman Dom Sleva added 18 points off the bench.
SU came into the game desperately needing a win to keep its hopes alive of making it into the national tournament, but the loss proved to be the nail in the coffin at Saturday’s selection show. The Raiders narrowly missed receiving an at-large bid into the Atlantic Region of the tournament, with West Chester receiving the No. 8 seed in that region.
The loss to West Chester proved to be the final game of the collegiate careers of senior Antonio Kellem and redshirt-senior Manny Span. Coach Chris Fite spoke after the game about the importance of Kellem and Span to the team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of those two guys. I just got done telling them that in the locker room. They leave here the winningest players in the program’s history,” Fite said. “When I recruited them here four years ago — five years ago in Manny’s case — we had a vision for where we wanted the program to be and, without a doubt, the success that we’ve had has been on their shoulders. I couldn’t ask for better guys to represent my program. They should be proud of what they have achieved.”