Men’s basketball suffers first-round exit in tournament

Titans shoot 11-21 from 3-point range, win 95-68

Earlier in the season, the Waynesburg University men’s basketball team came to Westminster College and left with a hard-earned victory.

Tuesday’s first round Presidents’ Athletic Conference playoff game was a different story.

Westminster came out on fire, jumping out to a 23-point halftime advantage and coasted to an 95-68 win over the Yellow Jackets.

“Not a lot of teams would have been able to beat [Westminster] with that performance,” Waynesburg head coach Mark Christner said. “They were hungry. I thought that we had a good plan tonight, but you have to give credit where its due to Westminster.”

A big reason for the early lead was outside shooting. Waynesburg shot just 33 percent from three in the first half while Titans fired in eight triples on 62 percent shooting.

“[Westminster] really shot at a high clip tonight,” Christner said. “That put us on our heels almost right out of the gate, and we were unable to play our game.”

Some of Waynesburg’s main contributors to the scoring were held in check. Senior wing Jake Dougherty led the way with 14 points in his final game, going 4-for-7 from beyond-the-arc. On the opposite side of the spectrum, sophomore guard Matt Popeck, who led the PAC in scoring average during the regular season, missed all five of his 3-point attempts.

Westminster also controlled the rebounding aspect of the game. The Titans ripped down 53 boards, while Waynesburg had just 22.

“Statistically we were one of the worst teams in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference in rebounding and that’s unacceptable,” Christner said. “We need to do a better job of teaching it, and we have to get stronger in the weight room.”

Two Titans recorded double-doubles, with senior guard AJ Grant collecting his first career double-double with a team-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, and sophomore guard Isaac Stamatiades chipping in 16 points and 10 boards off of the bench.

With the 2018-19 season ending with a disappointing 8-18 record and a sixth-place finish in the PAC standings, Christner said that they have to get back to the basics.

“We have to be a group that believes whole heartedly as a team, and sometimes I think we got away from that,” Christner said. “We have to get back to playing cohesively, playing really hard and guys have to recommit to ideas that we have as a program.”

The playoff defeat also marked the final game for Waynesburg’s three seniors in Dougherty, Nate Gearhart and Clay Carper.

“We appreciate and salute all of their contributions over the past four years,” Christner said. “It hasn’t always been easy [for Gearhart and Carper] in terms of playing time, but they stuck with it. [Dougherty] also added to the team as well. He really helped us with his shooting, and it was fun to have him. We wish them well and they will always be a part of our basketball family.”