Presidents’ Hoops Teams Face Stiff Tests At Thomas More
WASHINGTON, Pa. – Washington & Jefferson will face some of its toughest competition of the season when visiting Thomas More for a Presidents’ Athletic Conference basketball doubleheader on Saturday.
The women’s game will be a battle for sole possession of first place. W&J (6-1, 3-0) and Thomas More (7-1, 3-0) are the only remaining unbeaten teams in conference play after the Presidents knocked off previously undefeated Saint Vincent on Wednesday.
Junior Chelsea Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) scored 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting as the Presidents rallied from a 13-point deficit in the second half to down the Bearcats 64-59. W&J trailed for the first 18 minutes of the second half before freshman forward Beka Bellhy’s (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) rebound putback pushed the Presidents in front 60-59. Apke and senior guard Emily Abraham (Canfield, Ohio/Boardman) both made a pair of free throws during the final 1:22 to clinch the win. The Presidents were able to overcome 30 turnovers, the most ever under ninth-year Head Coach Jina DeRubbo.
W&J turned up its defense during the final minutes of Wednesday’s game, holding SVC without a point for the final 3:48 and a made field goal over the last 4:35. The Bearcats missed their final five shots and the Presidents forced five turnovers during that time.
Apke’s 28-point performance was the highest by a President since Amanda Stanonik ‘06 netted 32 points against Thiel on February 11, 2006. She bested her previous career high of 21 set against La Roche, when she also shot 10-of-14 from the field. Apke ranks third in the PAC in field goal percentage (.525) and fourth in scoring (16.6 ppg).
11th-ranked Thomas More upped its winning streak to four with a convincing 95-35 home victory against Chatham on Wednesday. All 10 players that saw action for the Saints got in the scoring column, led by Devin Beasley’s 20 points of the bench. TMC has won 40 consecutive and 51-of-52 all-time PAC games on its home floor. Its lone loss came at the hands of the Presidents on Feb. 2, 2007, when W&J edged the Saints 49-48 in overtime.
W&J’s last victory against a ranked team came against TMC by a 68-62 score on Jan. 10, 2009. Current W&J assistant coach Emily Hays ‘09 recorded eight points, four rebounds and two blocks during that game.
The Presidents’ men will also face their top test so far this season against the undefeated Saints (7-0, 2-0). Only one of Thomas More’s seven victories has come by less than 10 points. W&J will be aiming to end a six-game losing skid in Crestview Hills after falling at the buzzer 67-66 last season. Senior guard Zach Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) averaged 23.0 points during last year’s season series, including a career-high 34 points that he poured in on Jan. 28 at the Henry Memorial Center.
Despite a game high 18 points from Bellhy, W&J was not able to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit during a 73-63 loss to Saint Vincent on Wednesday. The Presidents rallied to tie the score twice during the final 20 minutes, but were unable to take the lead. Isaac Turner scored all eight of his second-half points during the final 2:58 to help seal the game for the Bearcats. Senior Ben Cecchini (Jamestown, N.Y./Jamestown) tallied 15 points and six rebounds, while sophomores Doug Johnson (Greensburg, Pa./Greater Latrobe) and Mitch Locher (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth) both turned in nine-point performances.
Johnson made all three of W&J’s three-pointers and now has five in his last two home games. His triples helped the Presidents keep their streak of 170-straight games with at least one make from beyond the arc alive. The last time W&J did not make a three-pointer was Nov. 25, 2006 against Rochester when the Presidents missed all nine of their attempts.
Thomas More has had a week to prepare for W&J after downing Waynesburg 54-42 last Saturday. TMC trailed 40-38 with 5:52 to play, but closed the game on a 16-2 run to earn the win. The Yellow Jackets missed 10 of their last 11 shots against the PAC’s stingiest defense. Thomas More is allowing opponents to score just 59.9 points per game.
W&J will return to non-conference play following Saturday’s games. The Presidents’ men will visit Hiram on Dec. 17 at 7:30 pm, while the women travel to Case Western Reserve on Dec. 20 (6:00 pm).