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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Five Things to Know About the 2018 PAC Men’s Basketball Tournament

By Justin Zackal

The 2018 PAC Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament tips off with four quarterfinal games tonight at 7 p.m. with the four higher seeds hosting the four lower seeds, followed by the semifinals Thursday at 7 p.m. and the finals Saturday night at 7:30. The winner will receive the league’s automatic qualifying bid to this year’s NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

Here are five things to watch in the PAC tournament:

Damion King and the Thomas More Saints will try to make it two titles in a row in the PAC.

ONE MORE TIME. Defending champion Thomas More (20-5, 16-2 PAC) enters the PAC tournament as the No. 1 seed for the first time since the Saints won their only other title in 2009. But this will be their last chance with the school leaving the conference after the academic year.

After chasing down Saint Vincent, which won the previous four PAC titles, Thomas More and its five returning starters would like to leave with two straight championships.

“We’re the hunted as opposed to the hunter,” said Thomas More head coach Drew Cooper. “Last year was all about dethroning Saint Vincent and now that we’ve done that it’s a different type of challenge. I wouldn’t point to our experience (as an advantage) because we’ve not had experience being the hunted and that is different for us.”

BALANCING ACT. Experience is actually an equalizer this year. Although Thomas More lost only two PAC games — at second-seeded Bethany (14-11, 14-4 PAC), 72-65 on Dec. 2, and at third-seeded Saint Vincent (16-9, 13-5 PAC), 65-50 on Feb. 14 — Cooper said the conference is equally matched. Sixth-seeded Geneva (11-14, 7-11 PAC) nearly won both of the games it lost to Thomas More (72-71, 86-80) and three of the league’s top four teams lost games to teams that don’t have winning PAC records.

The reason?

“The experience in the conference this year makes it certainly more balanced,” said Cooper, anecdotally naming seniors on each of the teams. “The four games Tuesday night, I anticipate four wars.”

To quantify the experience, four of the PAC’s top five scorers are seniors, which includes Calique Jones (18.6 ppg) and Tyriek Burton (16.1 ppg) of eighth-seeded Thiel (7-16, 5-13 PAC), Thomas More’s quarterfinal opponent. Overall, 11 of the league’s top 18 scorers are seniors.

ROAD TRIPPING. With a campus at least a four-hour drive from any other PAC school, Thomas More is undefeated in nine conference home games this year. But the three other quarterfinal hosts — Bethany, Saint Vincent and fourth-seeded Westminster (18-7, 12-6 PAC) — have home losses this year against teams seeded lower than them.

And here’s where Cooper hopes his team remembers what it’s like being the hunters.

“Home court is nice but hopefully if we learned anything from last year, we had to go on the road and win the thing, and we did that,” said Cooper, whose Saints won 79-68 at Saint Vincent in last year’s championship game. “That experience will hopefully help us prepare.”

Junior G Damion King, who scored a game-high 24 points in the finals last year, is Thomas More’s leading scorer this year with 15.2 ppg.

Cameron Kane-Johnson and the Westminster Titans could be primed and ready to make a run.

WHO’S HOT? Cooper seemed most weary of Westminster, the only PAC team that enters the tournament on a three-game winning streak, all against teams that qualified for the PAC tournament after the Titans lost at home to Thomas More, 76-60, on Feb. 7.

“If Westminster shows up and has a great shooting night, they are going to be conference champions,” said Cooper, naming outside shooters like Cameron Kane-Johnson (17.3 ppg, PAC-best 2.8 3-pointers per game) and the inside presence of Deontay Scott (11.5 ppg, PAC-best 8.2 rpg). “Their scoring punch is probably the best in the conference.”

The Titans host fifth-seeded Grove City (16-9, 9-9 PAC), which beat Bethany, 66-57, Saturday, but lost at Westminster in overtime, 76-65, in the teams’ last meeting. Seventh-seeded Waynesburg (10-15, 6-12 PAC) has won three of its last five including home victories over Westminster and Geneva.

EXPECT AN UPSET. Westminster was the only quarterfinalist to be upset at home in the first round last year, losing a 4-versus-5-seed matchup against Bethany, but two years ago the Titans advanced to the semifinals as a seventh seed. Cooper won’t be surprised if a lower-seeded team can make a run, but he would if one of them goes all the way.

“Five, six, seven and eight are as dangerous as they’ve ever been,” Cooper said. “I don’t know if any of them can win three games, but they sure as heck can win one or two. And one, two, three and four on any night can (beat each other).”

Although there will likely be an upset, it won’t occur because a team is overlooked.

“Each team has a handle on what to expect from the team they are going to be playing,” Cooper added. “It’s just a matter of who is going to show up for each team.”

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Five Things to Know About the 2018 PAC Women’s Basketball Tournament

By Justin Zackal

The PAC women’s basketball championship tournament takes place Feb. 19-24, with first round and quarterfinal games hosted by the higher seeded teams Monday and Wednesday and the semifinals and finals at Thomas More Friday and Saturday. Here are five things you need to know:

Abby Owings and the Thomas More Saints have their sights set on an 11th PAC title.

THOMAS MORE’S LAST HURRAH. No team other than top-seeded Thomas More (24-1, 18-0 PAC) has won the PAC since 2006, but that will change next year with the Saints leaving the conference at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. Ranked fourth in the nation, Thomas More may not be as great as the team that won the national championship in 2016, but the rest of the PAC is still no match for the Saints, which outscored PAC teams by an average of 90.9-47.4 this year, including scores of 73-57 and 92-42 against second-seeded Washington & Jefferson (21-4, 15-3 PAC).

“One change is they are not playing as fast and pressing as much,” said Jina DeRubbo, W&J’s 14th-year head coach. “They are winning as many games as they did, but they are not winning games by simply turning people over in a pressing situation. The biggest thing about Thomas More is they never get rattled. They don’t have those moments in games when they fall apart for four minutes.”

PLAYER TO WATCH. Junior G Madison Temple is the only player to rank in the top six in PAC in scoring (17.1 ppg, 5th), rebounding (7.0 rpg, 6th) and assists (5.4 apg, 1st), but the best player in the league is her teammate in the backcourt, senior G Abby Owings, an All-American and the reigning PAC Player of the Year. Owings ranks seventh in the PAC in scoring (14.6 ppg) and fourth in assists (3.0 apg), but her teams “goes as a she goes,” according to DeRubbo, who said she is “nearly impossible to contain.”

“(Owings) keeps her team in control,” DeRubbo said. “She’s a big-time player and shows up in big games and she never gets rattled.”

THE OTHER DOUBLE-BYE TEAM. Both Thomas More and W&J have two byes and they will play separate remaining teams in Friday night’s semifinals. The Presidents, ranked ninth in the Great Lakes Region, have clinched their fifth 20-win season the last six years, led by senior G Amirah Moore (14.3 ppg, 3.6 apg), who often guards the opposing team’s best player.

“This year it hasn’t been a struggle to get to 20 wins because we’ve had different kids step up at different points during the year and we’ve had a good, balanced attack,” said DeRubbo, referencing the balance of older and younger players, including freshman F Alie Seto (6.8 ppg) who has come on strong at the end of the season, averaging 11.0 points in the last six games.

GAME TO WATCH. Should third-seeded Saint Vincent (17-8, 14-4 PAC) win its quarterfinal game Wednesday — against the winner of Monday’s No. 6-seeded Bethany (11-14, 8-10 PAC) at seventh-seeded Geneva (8-17, 5-13 PAC) first round game — the Bearcats will play W&J in Friday’s semifinal. W&J and Saint Vincent split the season series with W&J winning 70-56 at home Nov. 29 and losing on the road, 69-58, Jan. 24.

“Those were the exact same game but for the opposite team,” DeRubb said. “We came out the first time and exploded offensively and dominated from start to finish. They did exactly the same thing to us the second game and hit every shot. (Saint Vincent is) playing very well right now and playing better and better as the season goes on. I think it would be a really close game (if we play). Who knows which way it will go.”

UNSUNG TEAM. Fourth-seeded Grove City (17-8, 12-6 PAC) would have to play Thomas More in the semifinal if the Wolverines win their quarterfinal game Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s eighth-seeded Westminster (7-18, 3-15 PAC) at fifth-seeded Waynesburg (14-11, 10-8 PAC) first-round game. Although the Wolverines are not a lower seed and an upset of Thomas Moore is unlikely, DeRubbo considers Grove City a team that’s as dangerous as Saint Vincent (Grove City beat Saint Vincent, 60-49, Jan. 6, before losing to the Bearcats, 70-67, Feb. 3).

“(Grove City) just plays really hard and they are very disciplined,” said DeRubbo, in addition to the Wolverines having sophomore G Lexie Arkwright (18.2 ppg). “Whether you are up by 20 or down by 20, Grove City kids always play the same. They play up-tempo, they get in your face, they turn the ball over defensively and they press for 40 minutes, so you can’t let your guard down. They are a team that never quits.”

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