NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. -
The Penn State New Kensington men's basketball season came to an end on Sunday, but the team concluded the campaign on a positive note, courtesy of a 94-86 victory at home against Penn State Lehigh Valley in Penn State University Athletic Conference play. New Ken, propelled by a fast start and massive contributions from a pair of freshmen, snapped a 10-game losing skid. With the victory, the Lions wrap up the season with a mark of 8-17, including a 4-15 record in the PSUAC. Lehigh Valley fell to 7-15 overall, and 6-13 in the conference.
Freshman Jakob Richardson (Pittsburgh, Pa/Seton-LaSalle) scored a team-best 27 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for New Ken, while fellow freshman Thomas Gilmore (Sharon, Pa/Grit Sports Academy) contributed 24 points and 12 boards. New Ken head coach Arthur McCray Jr. noted that the duo of rookies, as well as several other underclassmen, provide a bright future for the program.
"We start a lot of freshmen. To know we have that type of talent coming back and we're going to add to that skillset that they have, that's a great thing," he said. "We're going to look to build on this."
New Kensington wasted no time in establishing its game on Sunday, as the host Lions outscored Lehigh Valley 15-3 less than five minutes into the contest. Five different players scored during the early surge for New Ken, which pleased McCray.
"We talked about coming out and trying to get to a quick start. In the past, we kind of tried to save our legs because we didn't have the depth to play that style for a long period of time," he said.
Lehigh Valley chipped away at the deficit and pulled within six late in the first half, but Richardson scored five-straight points to send New Ken into the intermission with a 49-38 edge.
New Ken extended its advantage to 17 points on multiple occasions in the second half, but once again, Lehigh Valley pulled within striking distance as the half progressed. A 12-0 run by the visitors trimmed the New Kensington lead to 65-60 with more than 10 minutes remaining. Richardson snapped the run, however, and scored the next six points for New Ken to provide some cushion, at 71-62.
Lehigh Valley never pulled closer than within seven points the rest of the way, as New Ken sealed the win with Richardson and fellow freshman Brent Ivory (Pittsburgh, Pa/Seton-LaSalle) each knocking down a pair of foul shots in the final minute.
In addition to the scoring outbursts by Richardson and Gilmore, three other players reached double figures in scoring for New Ken. Junior Jamison Nee (Natrona Heights, Pa/Highlands) netted 17, freshman Brian Davidson (Pittsburgh, Pa/North Catholic) scored 11, and Ivory chipped in with 10 points and five assists, which tied Lamar Lewis (Pittsburgh, Pa/Carrick) for the team lead.
In the setback, Lehigh Valley's Jeremiah Jenkins scored a game-high 38 points on 16-29 shooting, while Eric Johnson added 18 points.
While New Kensington shot better from both the field and behind the arc, one of the biggest disparities came at the foul line, as the hosts converted 21 of 27 attempts, while Lehigh Valley shots just 9-17.
While the 2018-19 season provided numerous highs and lows for Penn State New Kensington, McCray ultimately took pleasure in the way his squad battled through adversity to finish with a W.
"We lost two starters before the season even started. Then, we had a great first half of the season, and then we lost some guys and we battled with pretty much seven guys the rest of the way, and that's hard to do," he said.
"They played well. To finish the way we did – team ball – that's a great job."