PITTSBURGH — The University of Pitt-Titusville Panthers played two very similar games in the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference Playoffs. They hosted the conference semifinal on Saturday and had an exciting 88-79 win to advance to Sunday’s championship game.
The home squad started the opening-round game with slams and rainbow 3-pointers in the first half. The Panthers led for most of the first half, but found themselves down at halftime by three points to the visiting Penn Highlands Black Bears. Panther Izaiah Dickerson, from Eastern High School in Washington D.C., had 11 points, while Ethan Barkley canned four treys to lead the Black Bears. The halftime score was 39-36 in favor of the Black Bears.
The Panthers struggled in the second half. They were down as much as 15 with less than nine minutes to go. Then first-year head coach Ryan McKissock saw his squad start a huge comeback. Seneca High School graduate Colton Hoffman started with two threes during a 30-6 run to finish the game. Along the way, several Panthers made several points from the charity stripe, including two clutch free throws from former Maplewood Tiger Derek Glancy, which sealed the deal for the locals.
“They never stop,” an excited coach McKissock said of his team after the game. “They keep battling. They just play so hard and had a heck of a finish.”
Dickerson led all scorers with 27 points, Glancy finished with 20 points and former Meadville Bulldog Simeal Wofford had 16 points. The Panthers’ 88-79 win awarded them a trip to the conference championship in Pittsburgh for a Sunday match-up.
The WPCC No. 1 seed, the Community College of Allegheny College Wild Cats, beat Butler County Community College in the opening round to earn the right to host Sunday’s championship game. The Panthers hit the road early Sunday morning for the Steel City. The noon tip-off led to a very similar game as in the opening round for the Panthers.
Canning threes, sinking nice lay-ups and strong play boded well for the Panthers., but the Wild Cats had a 38-33 lead at half. Wofford led the Panthers with 16 points including two treys, while CCAC’s Jerique Walker made two triples of his own toward his total of 12 points at the break.
Just like in the opening round, and about 24 hours later, the Panthers found themselves down by 15 in the second half. Wofford hit four long balls for the Panthers, as Dickerson had his own 12 points in the second half. The locals battled back to throughout the final half of the season. With 32.7 seconds, the Panthers were down by only two points. However, after a timeout and some struggles on defense, the Panthers couldn’t stop a final score of 75-71 in favor of CCAC.
To note, the only three losses by Pitt-Titusville in conference play were to the Wild Cats. Wofford ended with 28 points and Dickerson ended with 15 points for the Panthers. For the Wild Cats, Walker had 23 points, while Jalen Rogers chipped in 22.
It was announced that Wofford and Dickerson were named to the WPCC All Conference First Team.
Coach McKissock had nothing but positive comments for his squad, saying that the same statements that were made in the first round could be about the championship game.
“We put ourselves with an opportunity to win at the end,” McKissock added. “That is all that I can ask for.”
Pitt-Titusville Athletic Director Harry Miller was pleased with the coaching and team play this year.
“Coach Ryan out-coached a lot of the (opposing) coaches throughout the year, especially down the stretch,” Miller said. “It is hard to see the athletic program come to the end, but it is very rewarding to the campus to finish in the championship game with our heads held high.”
Miller also gave credit to Dr. David Fitz for making this last year a reality. Miller said that he would plan a celebration to honor the team, coaches and cheerleaders at a later date.
This finalizes Pitt-Titusville athletics, as the campus transforms to a new educational and training hub. Some of the former players and coaches attended different games throughout the season, including the final championship game. It was noted by Panther cheerleaders coach Holly McKenzie that she was honored to coach for over two decades.
“We have had 187 total cheerleaders throughout the years,” McKenzie said. “Both female and male students cheered on the blue and gold during my tenure.”
This recent era was preceded by athletics in the 1980s. Dr. Michael Worman spearheaded the campaign to bring back athletics in one of his strategic plans to grow the campus in the late 1990s. Since its rebirth, local fans, as well as parents from the surrounding states, enjoyed men’s and women’s basketball, women’s softball and volleyball, and co-ed golf.