Scrappy Jackets squad falls short at Westminster

Waynesburg now losers of three straight

NEW WILMINGTON, PA—  If point spreads existed in Division III sports, the Waynesburg University women’s basketball team certainly would have been an underdog at Westminster Saturday afternoon.

As expected, the Titans [17-3, 10-1] emerged as the Senior Day victors at Buzz Ridl Gymnasium, but the game played out differently than the stereotypical first vs. seventh place matchup.

With just 4:45 to play, the Yellow Jackets [4-16, 3-8] were a three-pointer away from taking the lead, down 63-61. Ultimately, however, on a day that began with the Titans honoring their five seniors, experience got the best of youth.

The young Jackets squad only has two seniors, and five underclassmen played Saturday. For head coach Sam Jones, however, the age difference between the two teams wasn’t as important as some other issues that plagued his team down the stretch.

“This is game 20,” Jones said. “So even our young kids have played a lot of basketball. Maybe, going back and watching the film, we see [examples where] ‘hey, this was a senior decision vs a freshman decision’… I don’t know if at this point in the year it has as big of an impact as us committing turnovers.”

And that was the main issue. The Jackets committed plenty of turnovers, 20 to be exact. It’s been an problem all season. Waynesburg is last in the PAC in turnover margin. Despite ball protection continuing to be the Jackets’ Achilles heel, there were plenty of positives to take from Saturday’s game.

After falling behind 7-0 to start, the Jackets went on a 15-5 run to end the first quarter, taking a 15-12 lead into the next 10 minutes.

The Titans got it together in the second quarter, outscoring Waynesburg 25-16 to take a six-point lead into the break. One of Waynesburg’s younger contributors, sophomore Kacey Kastroll, led the team with 12 points off the bench, going 4-5 in three-pointers.

For Westminster, senior Kayla Bennett matched Kastroll with 12 to lead the Titans in the first half. Kastroll, who finished with 15 points, credited her teammates for allowing her to get the right shots in the first half.

“Just coming off of screens my teammates set and looking for the ball [were key],” she said.

Westminster kept momentum into the third quarter, going ahead 48-39 with fewer than 4:00 to play. The Jackets kept punching, however, and entered the final quarter down a manageable 56-52.

The teams traded shots for the first five minutes of the fourth, and eventually, Westminster took a nine point lead with 49 seconds left. But Waynesburg stayed with them, and a layup by Brooke Fuller made it 73-70 with 8 seconds left.

After that basket, the Jackets had no choice but to put Westminster at the line, and two free throws off the hands of Magen Polczynski sealed the game. The Titans survived, and kept pace with St. Vincent in the PAC standings.

 “Obviously we played tough, and I was happy with that,” Jones said. “We had a few times where we let the momentum get to us. We kind of hung our heads, and that cost us.”

Senior Alli DeLaney was Waynesburg’s high-scorer, with all 16 of her points coming in the second half. Fuller added 14. For Westminster, Bennett posted a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Camden Hergenrother matched Bennett’s 17, and Polczynski [12] and Alazia Greaves [12] followed.

Waynesburg’s will be back at the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday evening against Geneva. The Jackets have five regular season games left, and for Jones, the team is still searching for an identity after game 20.

“We’re really just trying to figure out who we are,” he said. “That’s been our focus.”