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‘Wildcat Weekly’ Recaps Cagers’ Playoff Journey

Vol. 7, No. 30

Recent Results/Upcoming Games (Through March 8)

Men’s Basketball Final overall record: 18-12 Final PSUAC record: 14-4 Wednesday, March 4 vs. Maine-Augusta in USCAA Championships, L, 69-64 Thursday, March 5 vs. Penn State Fayette in USCAA Championships, W, 97-53 Friday, March 6 vs. Maine-Augusta in USCAA Championships, W, 99-81 Saturday, March 7 vs. Andrews University, Mich,. in USCAA Championships, L, 71-66 Final USCAA tournament record: 2-2, finished sixth in a 10-team field.

Archery Saturday-Sunday, March 14-15 at U.S. Indoor Eastern Regionals, Harrisonburg, Va.

Men’s Volleyball MACVC record: 7-7-1 Tuesday, March 3 at Messiah, L, 22-25, 14-25, 24-26 Saturday, March 7 at Messiah Tournament, def. Millersville, 25-20, 29-27; split with Royal Military College, 25-23, 21-25; lost to York Angry Dragons, 12-25, 24-26; def. Orange Crush, 25-18, 25-13. Sunday, March 8 at Messiah Tournament, lost to Messiah, 15-25, 21-25. Sunday, March 22 host Shippensburg University and Gettysburg College club teams, 2 p.m.

‘Cat Tales Men’s Basketball USCAA Game 1 Competing in a national tournament for the first time in college history, the Pennsylvania College of Technology men’s basketball team dropped its opener against Maine-Augusta Wednesday night, 69-64, and fell into the losers bracket.

The Wildcats, seeded ninth, trailed during most of their United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II game. They fought back with a 23-11 run to take a one-point, 64-63, lead with just under two minutes to play, before losing to the No. 8-seed. Craig Flint (Port Allegany) led Penn College in scoring with 20 points, Greg Solyak (Lancaster) and Mike Knepp (Swiftwater) each added 12 points, Leroy Joiner (Williamsport) scored 10 and Joe Simon (Renovo) nine.

“Their big man chewed us up inside,” commented Penn College coach Gene Bruno of Maine-Augusta’s L.T. Williams, who finished with 30 points and 18 rebounds. “We only had 14 points in the paint,” Bruno lamented. “The two-week layoff definitely hurt us because we finally hold a team to under 70 points and we only come up with 64.”

Penn College (16-11) next faces No. 10 seed Penn State Fayette (1-25) on PS Fayette’s home court in Uniontown. During a regular-season game Feb. 13 at Fayette, the Wildcats won, 86-70.

On Tuesday, Knepp, a junior, won the Slam Dunk Contest. The shortest contestant in the field at 6-foot, 2-inches, Knepp caught a ball on a bounce, after it was thrown from the bleachers by teammate Flint, and jammed it home for one. On another, he kicked the ball soccer-style off the backboard, then caught and dunked it.

That wasn’t all of the good news from the tournament for Wildcat players as it was announced that Joiner, a freshman guard, was named a USCAA Division II All-American. Going into tourney play, Joiner had scored a team-high 454 points, an average of 17.5 points per game.

“Leroy made us go this year, with assists, rebounds and scoring. It’s a great accomplishment for Lee and for the program,” Bruno said.

“He was that one key that we were missing (in the past) as far as an athletic guard. A guard like Lee can do it all he can handle the ball, transition, he can shoot and he can rebound. We probably wouldn’t have (a school-record) 16 wins right now without him,” Bruno added.

USCAA Game 2 Facing host Penn State Fayette in its first losers bracket contest of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II men’s basketball tournament late Thursday night, Penn College got a career-high 26 points from Tom Little (Beacon Falls, Conn.) and cruised to a 97-53 victory. Joe Simon (Renovo) added 18 points in the winning effort.

The victory kept the Wildcats’ hope of at least a fifth place finish in the 10-team tournament alive, and put them into Friday’s 6 p.m. game against a familiar foe Maine-Augusta, which they lost to, 69-64, in their tournament opener on Wednesday.

Looking ahead to Friday night’s game, Penn College coach Gene Bruno said, “Somehow, I’ve got to try to take this (L.T.) Williams kid out of his game.” In their first meeting, Williams, a 6-foot, 5-inch freshman from Chicago, dominated by scoring 30 points and pulling down 18 rebounds.

“We’re going to need our transition. And I think I’m coming out of the gate pressing for 40 minutes. I think I’m going to do something different. It’s not going to be normal basketball. We can’t beat them that way. They’re just too big for us underneath,” Bruno added.

Penn College takes a 17-11 record into the game and Augusta-Maine is 17-7.

USCAA Game 3 Tenacious defense and balanced scoring were the keys Friday night as the Pennsylvania College of Technology men’s basketball team beat Maine-Augusta, 99-81, in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II playoffs.

The Wildcats, in recording their school-record 18th win of the season, advanced to Saturday night’s 6 o’clock consolation game for fifth place against Andrews University, Mich. St. Andrews is seeded No. 3 in the 10-team tournament and Penn College is seeded No. 9. The game will be played at Penn State Fayette in Uniontown.

In avenging its earlier tournament loss to Maine-Augusta, Penn College trailed Friday night at the half, 38-34, and was behind by a dozen with about 12 minutes to play, according to coach Gene Bruno. Then, it rallied to victory.

“We pressed them for 40 minutes and caused them a lot of grief. We tired them out,” Bruno said.

“We used seven guys and six scored in double figures,” Bruno continued. Leading the way was Greg Solyak (Lancaster) with 28 points. Also in double digits were Tom Little (Beacon Falls, Conn.) with 17 points, Craig Flint (Port Allegany) with 13, Leroy Joiner (Williamsport) 12 and Joe Simon (Renovo) and Mike Knepp (Swiftwater) with 11 each. Solyak hit three 3s and was 9-for-9 at the foul line.

Looking ahead to Saturday night against Andrews University, Bruno said, “They’re really athletic and big. We’re probably going to have to sit in a zone (defense). We won’t have any legs to press, and even if we did their guards are pretty quick. We’re going to have to shoot the ball. We’re going to run and gun, that’s it. We’re going to use our energy on offense and try to slow them down in the zone.”

Penn College is 18-11 going into Saturday’s game and Andrews University is 16-11.

USCAA Game 4 What will be remembered not only as the winningest, but perhaps the greatest men’s basketball season in Pennsylvania College of Technology history came to a close late Saturday with a 71-66 loss to Andrews University, Mich., in a consolation game for fifth place of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division II tournament.

But Wildcats coach Gene Bruno, rather than lamenting the defeat, praised his team’s achievements.

“You go in as the ninth seed, come out playing for fifth and finish sixth, that’s a positive,” Bruno said.

“I often say to the kids, “˜success is in the eye of the beholder’ and it is between the team and myself, we’re the ones who have to decide whether we had a successful season and we’re very satisfied with the outcome,” continued the coach, in his 13th year.

“We reached the Elite Eight (in the Penn State University Athletic Conference), got a bid to the USCAA and going there and losing two games by a total of 10 points. “¦ It’s been an outstanding year,” he added.

Against Andrews University, Penn College fell behind 15-3 at the start but closed to within 37-29 at the half. With about 1:30 remaining, the Wildcats took the lead at 64-63, only to fall short at the finish.

“Athletically, they were a better team than us. We did a good job switching some things up, came out the second half and ran a completely different offense. It came down to a couple of one-on-one skill plays and their (Andrews University) kids finished it and we didn’t. That’s the difference between the third and ninth seeds and that’s where they won,” Bruno said.

Craig Flint (Port Allegany) led Penn College scorers with 17 points. Joe Simon (Renovo) added 16 points and Greg Solyak (Lancaster) scored 14.

Penn College finished 18-12 overall.

Looking back on the tournament, Bruno said, “It’s been a great experience. You get to play different teams. The whole thing, it’s just great.

“Probably the neatest thing is that Craig Flint and Tom Little (Beacon Falls, Conn.), who are both seniors, after four years of helping to build the program to where it is, had this experience and they got to squeeze a few more games out to end their careers.”

For the season, USCAA All-American freshman Leroy Joiner (Williamsport) finished with 492 points, an average of 16.4 points per game. Solyak was second on the team in scoring with 417 points (13.9 per game), followed by Simon with 382 (12.7), Flint with 359 (13.3) and Little with 325 (10.8). Flint ends his career with 1,196 points and Little with 913 points. Simon, a junior, now has 1,067 points.

As a team, the Wildcats scored 2,454 points (81.8 per game) and allowed 2,340 (78 per game).

Men’s Volleyball Playing in the Messiah Tournament, the Wildcats finished second in pool play on Saturday and advanced to Sunday’s single-elimination portion of the tourney, where they lost to the host team. But coach Wes Strayer said he sensed a turning point for his team during the event.

“It was a good weekend. They figured some things out about themselves and I was very happy about that,” Strayer said. “They figured out if they play as a team they can win. If they keep their heads in the game and play defense they can win. They really picked the defense up.”