For the first time in school history, the Penn Highlands Community College Men’s Basketball team (16-8, 12-2) won the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference crown. The Black Bears defeated Westmoreland County Community College (11-17, 9-5), 94-65, on Sunday afternoon at the East Hill Recreation Gymnasium to capture the WPCC conference title. The WPCC consists of ten institutions throughout Western Pennsylvania who compete at the NJCAA level.
Facing Westmoreland for the third time this season, Penn Highlands overcame poor shooting in the first half to pull away in the second. They were led by Antonio Carter, Jr. (Toledo, OH) who had 31 points, including six three-pointers.
Westmoreland took an early 18-14 lead with ten minutes left in the first half, but Carter hit five late threes to help the Black Bears go into half time with a 42-35 lead.
“Antonio carried us in the first half while some other guys struggled shooting,” Head Coach Landon Loya said. “In the second half, everyone else caught fire, and we were off and rolling.”
With Westmoreland in foul trouble, Penn Highlands was able to pull away quickly in the second half.
Sophomore standout Tim Biakapia (Germantown, MD) collected his twenty-fourth double-double of the season with 26 points and 17 rebounds. Named the NJCAA DIII Player of the Week in early January, Biakapia came alive in the second half during his last home game for the Black Bears.
“Tim really came alive in the second half,” Loya said. “I always say about him, ‘as you go, we go’, and the rest of the team followed suit. I’m so proud of the player, and the man, that he has become in two years here.”
Rounding out the top scorers for the Black Bears were Jordan Fortson (Hagerstown, MD) with 22 points and 12 rebounds and Bryan Acosta (Miami, FL) with eight assists. Local products Hunter Thomas (Johnstown Christian) had six points, Chandler Enos (Turkeyfoot Valley) had four points, and Peyton Brown (Williamsburg) had eight rebounds.
“Our guys executed the game plan really well,” said Loya, who was named the WPCC Coach of the Year following the game. “It was a huge win in Penn Highlands history, and it was a great game played in a fantastic atmosphere. I’m happy for our fans and our players.”
Joaunn Rivers led the Wolfpack with 17 points. Kyle Carrington, Kaleb Winchester, and Ja’Kory Freeman added 13, 12, and 11 points, respectively.
Penn Highlands will advance to the Region XX Basketball Tournament on February 23rd-25th. They will face the Community College of Allegheny County-Boyce on Friday evening.