Editor’s Note: This is the second of two parts reliving the best IUP games of the 2019-20 season, across all sports. Article contains opinion.
Last week, I unveiled five of the top 10 games of the year for IUP athletics. Those games highlighted the notable debuts and key victories for certain teams.
Taking it one step further, this week I will unravel the games that topped them all.
These games featured blowout victories, historic achievements and championship trophies.
No. 5: Lacrosse (March 9)
IUP 21, West Virginia Wesleyan 2
Although the women’s lacrosse team completed only four scheduled games of the 2020 season, the Crimson Hawks appeared to be in mid-season form in the decimating road defeat of non-conference opponent West Virginia Wesleyan.
From the opening whistle, IUP had the upper hand in this game as the Crimson Hawks put up 14 goals in the first half, which proved to be a season-high in any half.
IUP continued its intensity through the remainder of the game, shutting out Wesleyan in the second half 7-0, and running away with a monstrous 21-2 victory.
Sophomore Victoria Kerkovich scored a career-high five goals on the day to go along with an assist and three ground balls on defense.
Also contributing to the scoring outburst was a trio of freshmen midfielders in Jenna Lund, Katie Hibinger and Maura Columbus, who had three goals apiece.
On the defensive side, Lauren Pieckneck and Carly Mansur split time in the net and tallied two saves each.
What made this game notable, aside from the individual performances, was IUP’s efficiency on offense. Limiting offensive turnovers (3) and taking advantage of draw controls (16) played a big factor in the Crimson Hawks’ second and final road game of the shortened season.
No. 4: Golf (Oct. 20)
First place, PSAC Championships
It’s always special bringing home hardware. It’s even more special when you have more titles than any PSAC school.
During the three-day conference championship tournament in Hershey, the IUP golf team put up one of its best performances of the season, placing first each day and earning its 29th PSAC title in school history and the first conference title for new coach Dan Braun.
IUP shot a 53-over-par 905 on the weekend and ran away with the title, finishing 13 strokes ahead of second-place West Chester. In doing so, the Crimson Hawks saw multiple standout performances led by the trio of Shaun Fedor, Jeremy Eckenrode and Jack Buccigross.
Just a freshman, “Phenom Fedor” shot a 10-over 223 and achieved medalist honors after finishing in a three-way tie for first. Eckenrode was just shy of finding his way into that tie, finishing fourth two strokes back with a 12-over 225.
Another freshman standout, Richie Kline, tailed Eckenrode by one stroke and tied for fifth place with a 226, while Buccigross finished 10th with a 231 as four IUP golfers nabbed Top 10 honors.
This was the metaphoric stamp on an admirable season for the IUP golf team.
No. 3: Women’s Basketball (Jan. 29)
IUP 81, Seton Hill 55
It seems that the IUP women’s basketball team does nothing except achieve excellence year-in and year-out.
The Crimson Hawks came into the season with many questions following the departure of three key players from last year’s team that made a second straight run to the Elite Eight. However, as the season progressed, IUP showed why the program as a whole defines success rather than a few star players.
This definition was cemented following a mid-season conference matchup against Seton Hill.
Entering the game with a 17-win streak, IUP sought to make history that evening by winning its school-record 18th straight in front of a packed Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Conference (KCAC).
The Griffins kept the game within reach at the end of the first quarter as IUP only led by three points, but with an ignited offensive attack, which featured Natalie Myers and Courtney Alexander shooting for a combined 37 points on the night, IUP was able to make history at the KCAC.
Alongside Myers and Alexander, who combined to shoot 11-for-16 from 3-point range that night, Lexi Griggs collected 13 points on the night, and Justina Mascaro also reached double-digits with 10 points.
As a team, IUP shot 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range, the two strengths of the Crimson Hawks most of the season.
This victory broke the school record for consecutive wins in a season and kept IUP ranked in the top 10 in the national poll at the midpoint of the season.
No. 2: Football (Nov. 16)
IUP 54, Shippensburg 24
It was a make-or-break game for IUP football as a return to the Division II playoffs hung in the balance.
After a disappointing 2018 season that saw IUP’s playoff hopes shattered in the regular-season finale at home against the Shippensburg Raiders, the Crimson Hawks sought retribution on the road in 2019.
Knowing a win would drastically increase their chances of returning to the postseason, the Crimson Hawks took full advantage of the opportunity.
The offense, headed by Quinton Maxwell, Samir Bullock and Duane Brown, posted a monstrous 580 total yards on the day – 316 rushing and 264 passing – and eight touchdowns to lead the Crimson Hawks to their 13th season of 10-plus wins and another national playoff run.
IUP took charge of the game out of the gate, and the Crimson Hawks never looked back. They outscored the Raiders 27-10 in the first half and put up 20 more points in the third quarter to blow the game open.
Maxwell commanded the aerial attack, posting all 264 passing yards and throwing four touchdowns on the day, two of them going to senior wideout JoJo Gause.
Bullock ran for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leaving room for junior halfback Justice Evans and Shippensburg High School alumnus Adam Houser to contribute a score each.
All-American defensive back Damon Lloyd reached double digits in tackles (13), including one for loss.
Cornerback Nazir Streater continued his prolific season in the Crimson and Grey as he collected his PSAC-leading sixth interception by picking off Brycen Mussina in the late going.
All units were on point in the game which helped IUP defeat Shippensburg on the road and return to the postseason.
No. 1: Men’s Basketball (Mar. 8)
PSAC Championship Game
IUP 77, Shippensburg 59
ESPN needs a 30 for 30 on IUP men’s basketball following this season … or maybe a TPSN: Off the Court special.
The greatest game of the year goes to the IUP men’s basketball team for bringing home the hardware for the second consecutive year and capping in style a season full of changes to the team’s depth chart, game plan and atmosphere.
The Crimson Hawks knew this game wouldn’t be an easy feat, but IUP made it look effortless, building an eight-point lead at halftime and stretching it throughout the second half.
Junior guard Shawndale Jones, who was named the PSAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, scored a career-high 24 points and collected six rebounds in the championship game.
Jones scored 16 of those points in the second half, carrying IUP’s offense while its leading scorers battled foul trouble. During the PSAC tournament, he averaged 13.3 points per game while shooting 61.5 percent from the floor.
Sophomore Armoni Foster contributed to more than just the offensive side, tallying seven rebounds and four steals along with 17 points.
IUP’s defense smothered Shippensburg, holding the Raiders to 27.7 percent shooting (18-for-65) from the field, including only 18.5 percent from 3-point range (5-for-27).
The win cemented IUP’s name into the NCAA Division II tournament and the Crimson Hawks second straight PSAC championship.