“It’s always great to come out with a win,” Waynesburg senior guard Matt Popeck said.
When the Waynesburg women’s basketball team visited the Hiram College Terriers on Nov. 5, it was an overtime battle that led to a six point loss.
The men’s team also experienced overtime against Hiram this past Saturday, but the Yellow Jackets were victorious 73-67 at Price Gymnasium.
“I feel like we played tougher than them,” Popeck said. “They’re a talented team, we’re a talented team. Both have good players, but we were just able to execute our gameplan.”
The Yellow Jackets were down by as many as nine points in the first half, but Waynesburg was able to cut the Terrier lead to just three at 37-34 by the end of the half.
There were a total of six lead changes in the game, and Popeck made it a seven-point lead for Waynesburg at 61-54 with 1:56 remaining in regulation.
Hiram, however, then scored 5 unanswered points to cut the lead to two.
With 28 seconds to play, sophomore guard Bryson Wilt had the chance to ice the game at the free throw line with a one-in-one.
After missing the first free throw, Hiram senior point guard Brodgie Gordan tied the game with a floater at 63-63, which was enough to send the game into overtime.
The Yellow Jackets proceeded to outscore the Terriers 10-4 in overtime and steal the victory for their second consecutive road win.
“Defensively, I thought we were inconsistent in the first half,” Waynesburg head coach Tim Fusina said. “Statistically, we dominated them in the second half.”
Popeck was one of the key leaders for the Yellow Jackets on Saturday afternoon.
He had a game-high 23 points with three triples, and he never missed from the charity stripe, going 6 for 6.
Fusina described Popeck’s performance as one word: “Tough.”
“[He] plays with passion, plays with sheer will,” Fusina said. “A guy that plays through grit
in his teeth.”
Every Waynesburg starter made it to double figures in the points category.
Wilt, junior point guard Ryan Felberg, and sophomore forward Jansen Knotts all contributed 10 points apiece. Knotts achieved a double-double, pulling down 10 rebounds as well.
Graduate forward Nijon Kirkman managed 12 points with seven boards.
After the game, Popeck and Fusina displayed their exuberant emotions by screaming and chest bumping when the clock hit 0:00.
“I just love the energy and being able to celebrate wins with him like that and everybody,” Popeck said.
The leading Hiram scorers were junior guard Kevin Beans Jr. and sophomore guard Doug Sartain, each Terrier putting in 14 points apiece.
The one area, however, that Fusina saw room for improvement in his Yellow Jackets is letting their opponent get offensive rebounds.
“Why the game [was] close is because we gave up second-chance opportunities,” Fusina said. “They walk out of here with 25 offensive rebounds, it’s completely ridiculous.”
Waynesburg travels back to the state of Ohio to take on the Otterbein University Cardinals on Tuesday, Nov. 23. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
“We know the road stretch is something we have to battle and get through,” Popeck said. “If we’re able to string wins together on the road, it gives us great momentum going into conference play.