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LHU hoops teams host Shepherd Saturday in pivotal divisional matchups

By: SAM KUPERMAN

For The Express

The Lock Haven University women’s and men’s basketball teams return to the Thomas Fieldhouse Saturday for an afternoon doubleheader with Shepherd. The women’s game tips off at 1 p.m., followed by the men’s contest at 3.

Both Bald Eagles teams are right in the middle of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East standings. The same goes for both Shepherd teams, making both of Saturday’s meetings extremely important as the regular season enters its final month.

Lock Haven Women’s Basketball (10-9, 7-7) vs Shepherd (15-5, 9-5

Lock Haven women’s basketball comes into Saturday on a two-game losing streak. LHU had its lowest scoring performance of the year in a 58-42 loss at East Stroudsburg on Wednesday. That setback featured a fourth quarter the Bald Eagles would like to forget, as the team scored just one point that entire quarter, en route to the loss.

LHU sits in fifth place in the PSAC East standings. The Bald Eagles are just three games back of first place East Stroudsburg and Shippensburg, who both just beat Lock Haven to stretch the losing streak to two games. With eight games still to play in divisional competition, LHU is still within striking distance of the top teams. It also only sits two games in front of Bloomsburg and West Chester, who are both tied for the sixth and final playoff spot in the division.

Shepherd is trending the opposite way, but also is susceptible to dropping quickly in the standings. The Rams are tied with Kutztown for third in the PSAC East, but Lock Haven could get within a game of the conference newcomers with a victory Saturday.

When these teams met on January 11, Shepherd secured a 71-64 victory over Lock Haven. The Bald Eagles were held to a putrid 3-25 from three-point range, while Shepherd went 8-20 from outside. The Rams have three players in the top 10 in the PSAC in scoring, led by freshman sensation Abby Beeman. She had 18 points in the first game versus LHU, while juniors Marley McLaughlin and Sydney Clayton both scored 16.

Lock Haven holds a vast size advantage over its opposition, and will look to capitalize on that in Saturday’s matchup. Redshirt-junior center Jaynelle Robinson had 13 points and eight rebounds on 6-8 shooting in that loss in West Virginia. She grabbed five offensive boards in that contest, and will look to once again be a big factor this weekend. LHU freshman wing Marena Lonardi also scored 13 points, and shot the ball well from inside the arc. She went 5-8 on two-point shots in that contest.

Lock Haven Men’s Basketball (8-10, 5-9) vs Shepherd (9-11, 5-9)

LHU men’s basketball has lost three games in a row, and will try to buck that trend against a Shepherd team it beat in thrilling fashion in the first meeting. Lock Haven won 73-72 on a buzzer beater from junior all-conference guard Matt Cerruti. He had 29 points, and scored the final seven of the game to help Lock Haven complete a 10-point comeback in the waning minutes.

Lock Haven comes off of a 75-61 loss at East Stroudsburg Wednesday, after previously dropping home games to Shippensburg and Millersville. LHU, Shepherd, and Bloomsburg are all tied for the sixth and final playoff spot in the PSAC East. Last place Mansfield is only a game behind that group of three.

While these aforementioned teams have little wiggle room in the final month of the regular season, it’s more than you may think. East Stroudsburg and Kutztown are tied for fourth at 7-7 in conference play. West Chester and Millersville both hold 8-6 conference records as they’re knotted up in second place. Aside from 13-1 Shippensburg, everyone’s season on the men’s side could completely tilt one way or the other over the next month.

LHU brings two of the best scorers in the conference in that of Cerruti and senior forward Christian Kelly to the table. Both are in the top ten in the PSAC in scoring, while Kelly is also fifth in rebounding and third in blocks per game. LHU also has a productive cast of starters around them, with graduate transfer point guard Trevor Lecuona, junior forward Jesse McPherson, and freshman guard Eli Washington all providing Lock Haven with a starting lineup that is tough for most teams to match up with.

Shepherd is a pretty young team, but is led by senior Thomas Lang, who is one of the best scorers and shooters in the conference. He had 21 points in that last matchup, going 8-20 from the floor and 5-14 from long range.

As with most PSAC basketball matchups, the odds are that this will come down to the final minutes. LHU has proven to be a team that is never out of a game, but also can occasionally have trouble putting a game away. Shepherd has also been many similar spots, as displayed in Lock Haven’s win down there last month.

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