Dylan O’Hara’s last appearance at Waynesburg University as a Westminster Titan was far different from his first.
After spending his freshman year of college with the Yellow Jackets, O’Hara transferred to Westminster, where he was ineligible for the 2016-17 season due to NCAA regulations.
The next year, O’Hara returned to the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse, but to play for the enemy, and his peers in Greene County hadn’t forgotten him.
“I had a lot on my mind the first [game back],” O’Hara said. “The student section was there. They had a sign for me calling me a snake.”
In that game, O’Hara played just four minutes, and the Titans lost.
Two years later, O’Hara was back in Greene County during Christmas Break, not on a weekend in the middle of the school year.
The crowd was quiet.
The student section was nonexistent for obvious reasons.
At his former home, O’Hara had possibly the best game of his college career, scoring a career-high 35 points and leading the Titans [7-3, 2-1] to an 85-74 win over the Yellow Jackets [0-9, 0-3].
O’Hara did the big things well, shooting 9-18 from the field and 6-12 from beyond the arc. He also did the little things well, shooting 11-12 from the foul line. This is what O’Hara has been doing all season, as he’s evolved into possibly the best player in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, averaging 19.2 points per game, the best in the PAC.
“He’d be my pick right now if I had to pick somebody for player of the year,” Waynesburg coach Tim Fusina said. “He does a very good job. He’s a great scorer obviously.”
Fusina pointed out that O’Hara’s statline for the night lined up with what he’s been doing all year. For instance, O’Hara is shooting 49% from the field this season, and shot an even 50% against Waynesburg.
“I’d say he was right on his average,” Fusina said. “He got 18 shots off, I guess that’s what I’d say. If you look at his statistics, he’s shooting around those percentages. So yeah he had his best night of the year with 35 points, but he [was] hitting his percentages.”
All six of O’Hara’s three pointers came in a tightly contested first half that ended with Westminster clinging to a 35-33 lead.
Waynesburg had significant offensive contributions from Isaiah Alonzo and Frank Bozicivec, who had 13 and 11 points respectively in the first half.
Alonzo ended with a season-high 26 points, but he did run into foul trouble.
After a clean first half, Alonzo picked up four fouls in the first nine minutes of the second 20 minutes. With the 6’10 center out of the game, the Jackets trailed 52-48. When he returned four minutes later, Westminster had built an 11-point lead.
“I feel like if I’m on the court, I can make a difference,” Alonzo said. “But I trust my teammates to be able to go out there and do what they did. They played a heck of a game, just came up short tonight.”
“He gives us a post presence,” Fusina said. “Somebody who we can throw it in to, somebody who the other team has to guard in the post, which is to our advantage. We want to throw it into him as much as we can.”
Aside from Alonzo, Bozicevic [21 points] and Brennan Smith [18 points] were the only Jackets to crack double figures.
For Westminster, Lloyd Chatman put up 14 points off the bench.
In what’s become an unfortunate theme this season, Waynesburg turned the ball over 20 times. This, Fusina said, will be something important for the team to clean up going forward.
“Not turning the ball over 20 times a game [will be essential],” he said. “I think we’d start there.”
For Westminster, the win was another step to avenging last season’s PAC championship loss to upstart Chatham at home.
“We’re all motivated,” O’Hara said. “We lost on our home court last year, so there’s no more motivation than that.”
Waynesburg’s next contest is scheduled for Wednesday night in a non-conference game at Muskingum. Tipoff is scheduled for 7.
Despite falling to 0-9, this was Waynesburg’s most competitive game of the season. For the first time, a contest had been decided by fewer than 13 points. For Fusina, it was the first time this year that the team competed from bell to bell.
“We played hard,” he said. “I thought we executed most of our defensive game plan as well as you possibly could. There were areas that we were deficient in… but overall, I’m pleased with our effort. I’m pleased with our level of understanding of what we wanted to do tonight.”