Clinched: Waynesburg survives Thiel, locks up playoff berth

It seems like close games the are all the Waynesburg University men’s basketball team knows lately. Wednesday night’s game over Thiel was no exception. The men pulled off a 76-74 overtime win. The win broke a seven game losing streak, and most importantly, sent the Yellow Jackets [5-19, 5-10] into the Presidents’ Athletic Conference playoffs.

The win puts Waynesburg in position to be the seven seed in the conference tournament, as the Jackets have the tiebreaker over Thiel because of sweeping the season series.

The Yellow Jackets and Tomcats [5-10, 5-16] went back and forth for 40 minutes. Late in the game Thiel seemed to be gaining steam. The steam they did gain was not enough to slow down Waynesburg senior Frank Bozicevic.

Bozicevic owned the late stages of the game. In the final half minute of overtime, Bozicevic had a steal that turned into a layup to give his team a three-point lead late.

“All year my thing has been trying to be aggressive. I was just trying to be aggressive [in the situation],” Bozicevic said.

The aggressive play from the senior resulted in 14 points and three steals. Waynesburg coach Tim Fusina is well aware of Bozicevic’s late game capabilities, and he is more than happy whenever the ball is in his hands.

“He wants the ball in those situations,” Fusina said. “I’m more than comfortable calling some plays for him.”

The Yellow Jackets played with a lead for most of the game, but the lead was never a comfortable one. The Jackets were never ahead by more than nine.  The second half was back and forth, and the Jackets may not have been in it at all without freshman Ryan Feldberg.

Feldberg scored all 14 of his points in the second half alone. Also adding a big contribution was 6’10 Isaiah Alonzo, who scored 18 points for Waynesburg. He also added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Brennan Smith nearly had a double-double himself. He scored 16 points and grabbed eight boards. Smith fouled out late in the game, and as a result, freshman Briston Bennett got major minutes in overtime. Bennett hit four free throws in the extra period to ice the game.

The Yellow Jackets next game is the final one of the regular season. They’ll host the Bethany Bison, who beat them 72-59 in January. This Yellow Jacket senior class has yet to beat Bethany in their careers.

“We’re going to treat that as a playoff game,” he said. “We want to ride this win streak into the playoffs.”

Last time out, the Jackets lost to Bethany in West Virginia, a state which has turned into a house of horrors for Waynesburg. The last meeting between Waynesburg and Bethany resulted in the first loss of Waynesburg’s seven game skid. Fusina doesn’t think a lot will change from the game last time, but he wants his team to perform better, and hopefully get a win.

“I don’t expect much to change as far as how they played,” he said. “I don’t think we gave our best effort down there. We owe them. We have to play well.”