February 28, 2019
By: Steve Degler
The NCAA Division 3 basketball tournaments begin this weekend and the Lehigh Valley is well represented. Both DeSales University teams have qualified thanks to their wins in the Freedom Conference tournaments. They will be joined by the Moravian College men's team. The Greyhounds captured their second consecutive Landmark Conference title.
The DeSales women, under Head Coach Fred Richter, will take a 20-game winning streak into the tournament. The Bulldogs were perfect in the Freedom Conference regular season. DeSales is ranked in the top 15 in the country and the Bulldogs get to play at home to start the NCAA tournament. They host Shenandoah in the first round Friday night at Billera Hall, where they have won 19 consecutive games. DeSales plays a stifling defense, allowing just 53 points per game. Senior point guard Morgan Birmelin is leading the country in assists per game (7.6). The tandem of freshmen Averi Jordan and Samantha Shinkus, both from North Schuylkill High School, combine to score 25 points a game. And senior Bridget Walsh averages nine points and nine rebounds and is the school's career record holder for blocked shots. This is the 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the DeSales women.
The DeSales men are heading to The Big Dance for the fifth time in school history. Scott Coval's squad will play York College in the opening round Friday at Randolph Macon in Ashland, VA. Coval led the Bulldogs to the Elite 8 in 2009 and the Sweet 16 the following season. The Bulldogs are a very young, yet experienced, team. Luke Connaghan is the lone senior on the roster. He averages 12 points and seven rebounds a game. Tracy Simsick is the leading scorer at 15 points per game and he has made a team-high 57 three-pointers. Emmaus grad Matt Kachelries, who transferred to Center Valley from Bloomsburg, is a do-it-all type of guard. He puts up 12 point, six rebounds and six assists a game. DeSales has won six consecutive games and 18 of its last 20 heading into the NCAA Tournament. It is the first NCAA berth for the DeSales men's team since 2014.
Moravian alum Justin Potts has done an amazing job at his alma mater. The Greyhounds went on the road last weekend and toppled top-seed Drew to claim their second straight Landmark championship. Moravian opens NCAA play Friday in Clinton, NY, against Keene State College. The Greyhounds feature a prolific offense that averages 85 points a game. Oneil Holder shoots 53% from the field and averages over 18 points a game. Moravian can really shoot the rock, making 11 three-pointers a game. Nicholas Casazza has made 60 of them and C.J. Barnes is right behind him with 59. Jimmy Murray contributes 14 points per game while Barnes adds 12 a contest. Moravian also shoots 76% from the free throw, always an important stat in the tournament. And the Greyhounds defense forces 20 turnovers a game. Moravian is making its fourth appearance in the D3 tournament. The Greyhounds lost in the first round to Ramapo College last year.