W&J Basketball Makes First Conference Road Trip Saturday
WASHINGTON, Pa. – After sweeping Westminster on Wednesday, the Washington & Jefferson College basketball teams look to build upon that momentum when visiting Thiel on Saturday.
Senior guard Zach Bellhy’s (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) 31-point effort spurred the Presidents’ men to a 92-87 overtime victory against Westminster, while sophomore center Valerie Dunlap (Hostetter, Pa./Latrobe) helped the W&J women rally from a five-point halftime deficit with 15 second-half points during a 56-51 victory.
Bellhy drained 14-of-21 shots and scored 23 of his points after halftime, while collecting nine rebounds and a handing out a pair of assists. The Presidents (1-4, 1-0) shot a season high 49 percent (34-69) and outrebounded the Titans 47-36 as they won their first conference opener since the 2009-10 season.
Sophomore forward Nate Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) recorded his fifth-straight double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Bellhy is the only player in the PAC with more than one double-double and is the first W&J player with at least five double-doubles in a season since Josep Lucic-Jozak (11) and Wahab Owolabi (9) during the 2008-09 campaign. He leads the league in rebounding (10.6 rpg) and ranks eighth in scoring (16.2 ppg).
A total of 72 of the Presidents’ 92 points came from its starters on Wednesday. In addition to the combined 46 points from the Bellhy brothers, senior forward Ben Cecchini (Jamestown, N.Y./Jamestown) netted 14 points and sophomore point guard Doug Johnson (Greensburg, Pa./Greater Latrobe) chipped in a season-best nine points, while sophomore guard Connor Deckard (Aurora, Ohio/Gilmour Academy) added two. Cecchini also pulled down nine rebounds and dished out four assists.
Despite making just 17-of-26 free throws against the Titans, W&J remains the PAC’s top shooting team from the charity stripe at over 78 percent. Sophomore guard Mike Resnik (White Oak, Pa./McKeesport) leads the team (.871), while Nate Bellhy (.867), Johnson (.833) and freshman Nick Martin (Beaver Falls, Pa./Blackhawk) (.800) are all shooting at least 80 percent. W&J has led the league in free-throw shooting twice during seventh-year Head Coach Glenn Gutierrez’ tenure and was second last season.
At 4-0, Thiel is off to its best start since the 1934-35 season. Sophomore Kamran McCaskill erupted for 38 points on 17-of-20 shooting during the Tomcats’ 91-79 home victory against Geneva on Wednesday. McCaskill’s 38 points were the most by a Tomcat since 2006 and he leads four Thiel players averaging double figures this season at 17.5 points per game. TC is the top shooting team in the PAC (.512) and averages 81.2 points.
W&J and Thiel last met in the quarterfinal round of last year’s PAC Tournament when the seventh-seeded Presidents upset the second-seeded Tomcats 91-89 in Greenville, marking the second time in three years that W&J had won a PAC Tournament game as the lower-seeded team in Beeghly Gymnasium. Zach Bellhy led all players with 23 points, while Resnik added 14, including a free throw with 10 seconds left to seal the game. The Presidents lead the all-time series that dates back to the 1935-36 season 82-37. Zach Bellhy averages 16.0 points against the Tomcats in eight career meetings. He has scored in double figures six times and has produced 23.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in the last four matchups with Thiel.
The W&J women have won 4-of-5 games to begin the season after downing Westminster 56-51 on Wednesday. Dunlap scored 15 of her game-high 17 points during the second half and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Presidents to their third-straight victory in a PAC opener. Junior Chelsea Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) added eight points and nine boards, while senior Emily Abraham (Canfield, Ohio/Boardman) contributed nine points.
The Presidents will be looking to end a two-game losing skid in Greenville. After winning eight-straight road games against the Tomcats, W&J has dropped consecutive outcomes at Beeghly Gymnasium, including a 76-66 setback last season. All-time, the Presidents own a commanding 44-19 series lead.
W&J’s starting frontcourt has been one of the top trios in the PAC early this season. Dunlap is the league’s leading shot blocker (3.2 bpg), while ranking third in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and eighth in scoring (13.4 ppg). Apke leads the conference in steals per game (4.0), is fourth in rebounding (9.2) and fifth in scoring (14.6). In addition, freshman Beka Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) is the second-leading rebounder (5.6) and third-leading scorer (8.4) among all PAC first-year players.
After missing the majority of her first two seasons due to injuries, junior Alex Bernardi (Saint Clair, Mich./Saint Clair) has gotten off to a strong start. Bernardi averages 5.4 points per game and has been the top three-point threat at nearly 53 percent (9-17). Her backcourt mate Kara Seamon (Morgantown, W. Va./University) leads the PAC in assists per game (3.8) and is the team’s fifth-leading scorer (7.2).
Thiel, which ended a two-game losing streak with a 78-58 victory over Geneva on Wednesday, features the high-scoring senior duo of Kelly Muffley and Kelly Barzak. Muffley and Barzak are the league’s top two scorers at 20.4 and 18.2 points per game, respectively. Barzak shoots nearly 57 percent (41-70) from the field and has pulled down 8.3 rebounds per game. Junior Riian McCray has also aided the Tomcats by averaging a double-double (13.0 points, 11.5 rebounds).
W&J returns to the Henry Memorial Center on Wednesday to face Saint Vincent. The women’s game begins at 8:00 pm, following the men’s game which starts the PAC doubleheader at 6:00 pm. Both games can be watched on WashJeffSports.TV.