Eleven months ago, Wilkes and Misericordia met up with a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line. When they face off tonight at the Marts Center, they will be on decidedly different footing.
The Cougars won that Freedom Conference championship last February, but only one starter from each side in that contest are still around for today's 8 p.m. tip.
Misericordia is right back in contention to defend the title while Wilkes is still looking for its first league win.
After suffering back-to-back league losses on the road two weeks ago, the Cougars rebounded by closing out wins against King's and FDU-Florham last week.
More than anything, we've just kept playing hard (in the second half), Misericordia coach Trevor Woodruff said after beating the Monarchs. We don't relax. No matter how ugly it is, they just continue to scratch and fight to get the win. So maybe we've learned something.
In both contests, the Cougars picked up their play in the second half with sophomore forwards Steve Ware and Cael Evans helping make the difference. Ware in particular has been a key factor to the team's success.
In the Cougars' four conference wins this semester, Ware has averaged roughly 18 points and 10 rebounds. In their two losses, those numbers are at 6.5 and 3.5.
He's a handful, Woodruff said. He's so active, so long and athletic. He's a handful for people to guard. He's capable of doing that every night. His issue right now is consistency, which you find a lot in young kids.
Wilkes is looking for more production from its big men in general as the Colonels rotate a handful of players in the frontcourt. Juniors Pat Furst and Brendan Sheldon lead the Colonels forwards in scoring (7.4 ppg) and rebounding (5.5 rpg), respectively.
That would help offset the loss of leading scorer Chris Shovlin. The dynamic guard has missed the last three games with an injury.
Of course Chris wants to play. He wanted to play (in Saturday's loss to Delaware Valley), Colonels coach Jerry Rickrode said after the game. But I said, ‘No, let's wait 'til it gets to 90, 100 percent.'
I don't know when that will be. But I don't want him to get more hurt. I don't want it to linger. And I want him to be able to be an effective Chris.
Freshman Alec Wizar has stepped into Shovlin's spot in the lineup, averaging 12 points in his three starts.
But without Shovlin and Jourdon Wilson – last season's starting point guard – the Colonels don't have an ideal man for the job at the moment.
We're playing out there without a point guard, Rickrode said. There's no point guard. So I'm asking (Wizar) to do some things I wouldn't have asked him to do – would have never even thought of asking him to do as a freshman.
I think he's savvy and he's playing really hard. He's making some good things happen. It's basically a role I wouldn't have put him in at this point. But he's gonna be good.
The night will tip off with the Wilkes and Misericordia women's squads at 6 p.m. Both sides are looking to snap lengthy losing skids in league play. The Cougars have lost their last five Freedom games while Wilkes has dropped four in a row.
With six games left, however, there's still time for both squads to climb back into the playoff picture. Misericordia sits one game out of a postseason berth and Wilkes is two back.
King's is also in town tonight, hosting a doubleheader against Eastern at Scandlon Gymnasium.
Senior guard Celia Rader is six points shy of 1,000 for her career during the women's game at 6 p.m. At 8 p.m., the Monarch men will try to even the score after suffering a tough road loss to the Eagles earlier this month.
Misericordia at Wilkes
Today, Marts Center
Women's game: 6 p.m.
Men's game: 8 p.m.
Radio: 104.1-FM, 1040-AM
|MISERICORDIA (9-9, 3-5)|
|10||Tyann McDaniel||G||5-4|| 9.8||Sr.|
|31||Lauren Smicherko||G||5-6|| 13.1||Jr.|
|13||Hannah Seely||G||5-8|| 11.3||Jr.|
|33||Nikki Baro||F||5-9|| 4.2||Fr.|
|22||Sam Baro||F||5-10|| 4.9||So.|
|WILKES (10-8, 2-6)|
|3||Amanda Pawlowski||G||5-2|| 2.0||Sr.|
|10||Elena Stambone||G||5-8|| 19.6||So.|
|32||Megan Kazmerski||G||5-8|| 10.7||Sr.|
|33||Chelsea Brown||G/F||5-10|| 8.6||So.|
|43||Ellen Rich||C||6-3|| 3.1||So.|
Lineups based on last game
Nov. 28: Misericordia 62, Wilkes 52
|MISERICORDIA (10-9, 6-2)|
|10||Matt Greene||G||5-9|| 12.2||Jr.|
|5||Jesse Urich||G||5-10|| 5.7||Fr.|
|3||Sean Bieski||G/F||6-2|| 4.8||Sr.|
|32||Steve Ware||F||6-4|| 11.6||So.|
|33||Justin Grotevant||F||6-4|| 8.9||Sr.|
|WILKES (7-11, 0-8)|
|12||Alec Wizar||G||6-0|| 4.6||Fr.|
|2||Tyler Breznitsky||G||5-9|| 12.3||Sr.|
|24||Pat Furst||F||6-3|| 7.4||Jr.|
|30||Jim Brackett||F||6-5|| 3.1||Fr.|
|42||Brendan Sheldon||F||6-5|| 4.1||Jr.|
Lineups based on last game
Nov. 28: Misericordia 73, Wilkes 65