Playoff hopes a long shot for 10-9 team

Nick Roth, Staff Writer

Head Coach Bob Rukavina and the Pitt-Johnstown men’s basketball team say they hope to hoist a conference tournament championship trophy this season.

“If we play to our capabilities, we have a chance to do some damage in the tournament,” Rukavina said.

Sophomore 6-foot 9-inch Ian Vescovi said it’s important to focus on the little things.

“If we limit our turnovers and out rebound the other team, things tend to go in our favor,” Vescovi said.

The Mountain Cats are 14-9 overall, and 10-9 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with important conference games remaining.

The Mountain Cats are ranked seventh of 15 conference teams.

Thursday, the Mountain Cats look to upset West Liberty University who is ranked first in the conference.

On Jan. 5, the Mountain Cats lost 92-101 to the third nationally ranked West Liberty Hilltoppers.

Senior point guard Nick Novak is the reigning player of the week in the conference.

He averaged 27 points and 7.5 assists, in a two-game stretch.

“The conference is tough and filled with good teams,” Novak said. “I just hope we step up and come to play for the last important games we have.”

There are 265 basketball teams in Division II.

Pitt-Johnstown breached the top 25 in six offensive categories.

The categories are, 3-point percentage, field goal percentage and scoring offense, as well as assists per game, assist-to-turnover ratio and the scoring margin.

Novak is ranked No. 10 in scoring and No. 15 in assists.

Fellow senior Jordan Miller is ranked seventh in 3-point percentage, and No. 15 in 3-point field goals a game.

Junior Bill Luther ranks No. 22 in 3-point field goal percentage, and No. 33 in 3-pt field goals a game.

“I would like to see our seniors, Novak, Miller, and Noah Hartung have a successful run in the tournament,” said Rukavina. “They deserve it for all the hard work they have put in over the last four years.”

The idea of the last run into the postseason is a tough Novak said.

“Knowing it’s your last chance to play in the postseason motivates you a lot,” said Novak. “You have to make sure you’re satisfied with how your career ends.”

The Mountain Cats look to finish strong in their last three games in order to possibly secure home court advantage for the conference tournament’s first round of games.

If successful, then the team is to move into the final eight to compete at the Charleston (W.Va.) Civic Center for the conference championship.

The conference tournament’s first round is to begin Feb. 21.