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Penn College Men and Women Set for CCAC Basketball Playoffs

Incentive to win is important in any sporting event, and both the Pennsylvania College of Technology men’s and women’s basketball teams have plenty going into their first Commonwealth Campus Athletic Conference playoff games.

The men, who set a school record with their 15th win in their last outing, travel to Penn State New Kensington for a 2 p.m. game Saturday. The Lady Wildcats could tie a school women’s single-season record with their 19th victory if they win their game at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Penn State York.

Men Penn College is 15-8 overall and completed CCAC regular season play with a 13-5 mark. Two of those losses came against New Kensington and coach Gene Bruno said it will take a big effort to win, but he thinks his team is capable of it.

“I don’t think we’ve really played our ‘A’ game yet against them. It’s a matter that we’ve got to go out there on their turf and we’ve got to put our game together in order to be successful. It’s not going to be easy,” Bruno said.

“They’re a good team, they’ve got nice balance, they pressure you the whole time,” he said.

“What we need to do in practice this week is work on their press attack so we can handle their three-quarter press, and, when we get into the front court, we have to execute our offense,” the coach said.”We can practice that all week, but the kids have to get out on the court and remember to play as a unit and execute.

“I’m confident we are better than that team. They are good, but we’re just as good . . . if not better,” Bruno added.

Through 23 games, the Wildcats are averaging 76.7 points per game on offense and allowing 72.7. Ken Vialet (Manhattan, N.Y.) leads the team in scoring with 309 points and an 18.2 points-per-game average, while Dawan Moore (Buffalo, N.Y.) has a 12.7-ppg average and Tony Flint (Port Allegany) 10.5.

“(In eight years), this is the most fun I’ve had because it’s a great group of kids, they’ve jelled together, they play as a team…. Overall, whatever happens on Saturday, it’s been a great season. We’ve elevated our schedule. And what’s most exciting is that they’re getting it done in the classroom. Other than Greg Davis (Kutztown) and Joe Walker (Williamsport), everybody’s back, which should make us only better (next year),” Bruno said.

Women Not only do the Lady Wildcats have incentive. They’ve got added incentive.

More than a week ago, after a loss to Harrisburg Area Community College that knocked them out of the Eastern Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference playoffs, Penn College thought its season was over.

“When I got the position (as coach), I knew that we were in the EPCC and the schedule didn’t initially say anything about CCAC playoffs, so the whole team assumed that we were EPCC and played teams in the CCAC without a chance of the playoffs,” coach Ron Kodish explained.

“It was several weeks into the season when we found out that we, indeed, were members of the CCAC, but, by that time,several of our players had booked flights for spring break. It’s one of those things where the money has been paid and it’s a non-transferable ticket,” Kodish said.

“I actually gave them a farewell, ‘It was a great season’ type of speech (after the Harrisburg loss),” the coach continued.

But, given the opportunity to still win a championship, one of his players changed her travel plans so that the team’s season could continue.

The Wildcats (18-8 overall and 9-4 in the CCAC) will have had nearly two full weeks between games, and Kodish, despite the fact that his players have been practicing and scrimmaging, has concerns about the layoff.

“We just had to find a way to stay sharp, so that, when we go into the game, we can be as sharp as possible,” Kodish said.

“I talked to all of the players and they’re genuinely excited about having the opportunity to go on.”

Penn College won its first game against Penn State York, 55-48, but lost the second by forfeit when it couldn’t field a full team.

“It’s a very good team. They have a lot of good athletes and we had to work as hard as we could to pull that game out on our court. I think we have the ability to beat any team that we play, if we stay out of foul trouble and keep people on the court,” Kodish said.

“I think we’ve gotten stronger with the addition of Brittany Blessard (at the start of the second semester). She wasn’t around the first time that we played them,” Kodish said of the former Bucktail High standout.

Although the Wildcats lost both games they played against Penn State Hazleton, 76-75 on a buzzer-beater here and 85-72 there, the Wildcats weren’t at full strength for either game, as Blessard wasn’t with the team the first time around and leading scorer Katlyn Stupar (State College) was missing from the lineup the second time.

“Actually, I was really pleased with the way we played them at their place when we got beat the second time. I feel comfortable about going in against them. We’ve played them twice and have had a chance to look at their style and what they can do and what we might be able to take advantage of,” Kodish said.

“We’re excited. We have another opportunity to prolong the season,” he said.

“(I think they’re) looking forward to getting back into it and possibly ending up at the Bryce Jordan arena playing for another championship. That’s got to be exciting. It’s got me excited!”

“There’s a lot of minutes on everybody’s legs on the team right now, but I think that, when you look at this time in the season and look at how little time there is left, you dig as deep as you possibly can to come out with everything that you’ve got on the court,” Kodish said.

Stupar leads the team with a 30.9 points-per-game average, while Blessard is averaging 21.2 and Natalie Plavi (Elderton) 12.3 ppg. Teamwise, the Lady Wildcats are averaging 67.5 points on offense and allowing 53.7.

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