W&J Faces Final Road Test At Geneva Wednesday
WASHINGTON, Pa. – Washington & Jefferson College closes out the road portion of its regular-season schedule with a Presidents’ Athletic Conference basketball doubleheader in Beaver Falls against Geneva on Wednesday (Women, 5:30 pm; Men, 7:30 pm).
Entering the final week of conference play, the W&J women (16-7, 11-5) have clinched a top-four seed and a first-round home game in the PAC Tournament and can reach as high as the No. 3 seed with a pair of victories coupled with a loss by Waynesburg in one of its final two games. The Presidents and Yellow Jackets are tied for third in the standings currently, but Waynesburg would own the tiebreaker over W&J if both teams win their final two contests.
The Presidents can tie a school record for conference victories with a road victory against Geneva. W&J has posted 12 PAC victories twice in history, most recently during the 2009-10 season, which is also the last time the Presidents reached the NCAA Division III Tournament.
W&J picked up its 11th league win on Saturday when it recorded a blowout 69-37 victory at Chatham. The Presidents held the Cougars to just 17 percent shooting (11-62) and forced 22 turnovers. In two games against Chatham this season, W&J allowed only 19 baskets on 111 field goal attempts (.171).
Junior forward Chelsea Apke (Pittsburgh, Pa./Mount Lebanon) needed just 17 minutes of playing time to record her 11th double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. She drained 6-of-8 shots and all four free throws, while adding five assists and two steals. Apke ranks second in the PAC in rebounding (10.3 rpg), third in field goal percentage (.516) and sixth in scoring (14.7 ppg).
Sophomore forward Tori Bishop (Pittsburgh, Pa./Upper St. Clair) tied a career high with eight points and also grabbed six boards, while freshman guard Andrea Kronthal (Palmyra, Pa./Palmyra) pulled down a career-best nine rebounds. Kronthal also made her first career field goal during the game.
The Presidents outrebounded Chatham 51-39, the sixth-straight game that they have held an edge on the glass. W&J, which is 15-4 when outrebounding opponents this season, owns the league’s top rebounding margin (+4.7 rpg). The Presidents are allowing just 36.3 rebounds per game, the lowest mark in the PAC, while Apke is the top individual offensive rebounder in the league (3.6 per game).
W&J can sweep the season series from Geneva for the fourth time in the last five years after posting a 70-41 victory on Jan. 16 in Washington. Offensively, the Presidents received a balanced scoring effort with six players tallying at least eight points, led by sophomore center Valerie Dunlap’s (Hostetter, Pa./Latrobe) 12-point performance. Dunlap also recorded 10 rebounds and three blocks, while Bishop grabbed a career-high nine boards.
The Golden Tornadoes have lost five consecutive games, the most recent setback coming by a 55-39 score at Grove City Saturday. Geneva is averaging 45.7 points per game and shooting 31 percent from the field, both PAC lows. Leah Prisuta is tied for third in the league in blocks per game (1.4) and is the team’s second leading scorer (10.4 ppg) behind Heidi Mann (12.1 ppg).
The W&J men (8-15, 6-8) can clinch the No. 5 seed in the PAC Tournament with a victory. The Presidents will be on the road for the tournament’s first round against either Bethany or Thiel.
W&J is looking to end a two-game skid after falling to Grove City 60-52 at the Henry Memorial Center last Wednesday. Senior forward Ben Cecchini (Jamestown, N.Y./Jamestown) turned in an all-around performance with 11 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals to lead the Presidents. Sophomore Mike Resnik (White Oak, Pa./McKeesport) recorded 10 points and six rebounds, while classmate Nate Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry) grabbed seven boards.
Cecchini is the only player in the PAC to rank among the top 10 in rebounding, assists and field goal percentage. He is third in assists (3.3 apg), sixth in shooting percentage (.497) and eighth in rebounding (6.4 rpg). Cecchini is also the second-leading shot blocker (1.1 bpg) and averages 8.8 points per contest.
Nate Bellhy and older brother, senior guard Zach Bellhy (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry), combined for 38 points and 20 rebounds to lead W&J to a 70-65 home victory over Geneva on Jan. 16. Zach Bellhy turned in a 21-point, 11-rebound performance, while Nate contributed 17 points and nine boards. Sophomore forward Mitch Locher (Pittsburgh, Pa./Avonworth) added a career-best 14 points along with six rebounds and a pair of assists.
W&J and Geneva are meeting for the 68th time in history with the Presidents holding a slight 34-33 edge. W&J can sweep the Golden Tornadoes for the first time since the 2008-09 season, the same year that the team last won in Beaver Falls. Zach Bellhy is averaging 19.3 points per game during his previous three outings against the Golden Tornadoes.
Wednesday’s matchup features the top two scorers in the league, Matt Lorello (19.1 ppg) and Zach Bellhy (18.6 ppg). Last season, Bellhy paced the PAC, while Lorello finished third in scoring. Lorello leads the conference and ranks 11th overall in NCAA Division III in field goal percentage (.623).
Geneva dropped its fifth-straight game, an 80-75 setback to Grove City on Saturday. The Golden Tornadoes will need a pair of victories this week to avoid playing in the No. 8-No. 9 seed opening round game of the PAC Tournament.
W&J closes out the regular season Saturday when it hosts Bethany on Senior Day. The Presidents’ women own a 64-56 victory over the Bison, while men were defeated 109-72 in West Virginia earlier this year. Zach Bellhy, Cecchini and R.J. Pilato (Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield) will be honored for the W&J men, while Emily Abraham (Canfield, Ohio/Boardman) is the lone women’s senior.