BEARCAT HOOPS NEWS AND NOTES

LAST WEEK

Willamette split two games in Tacoma, WA, losing to the University of Puget Sound 99-71, then rebounding to defeat Pacific Lutheran University 87-73. WU’s Friday night loss eliminated the Bearcats from the NWC championship race (which was clinched by UPS the following night). WU currently stands at 15-8 (10-4) overall on the season.

THIS WEEK

The Bearcats finish up the year this week with two home games. Tuesday, the Boxers of Pacific visit Cone Fieldhouse, while rival Linfield invades Salem Friday night. The Bearcats defeated both teams in their previous match-ups this season.

MAKING A STATEMENT

While Friday’s defeat at the hands of the Loggers was extremely disheartening for a Bearcat team harboring hopes of an NWC crown, the remainder of the season offers WU the opportunity to make one final statement to the league coaches who picked them 6th in the preseason poll. By winning its last two games, Willamette can end the year at 17-8 (12-4), and in 2nd place in the NWC.

3 in a Row
If WU does finish second, it will be the 3rd consecutive year they have been runner-up in the NWC. Unlike previous years, however, there is no postseason tournament in the conference, so no matter what, Willamette’s season ends Friday night.

ONE MORE TIME…

The two games this week mark the final week of action for WU’s senior class. David Force, Miles Sandgathe, PJ McDevitt, Ryan Rahlfs, and Todd Lewis will all be donning the Cardinal and Gold for the final time Tuesday and Friday, capping a sensational 4-year run in the program. The class of 2004 has evolved from a group that was a part of a 10-14 (7-9) campaign as freshmen, to a core that has witnessed runs to the NWC semi finals (2002) and championship game (2003), and battled to a chance for a 3rd straight 2nd place finish in 2004. These seniors have also been a large part of the revival of Cone Fieldhouse, posting a 27-3 mark in Salem over the last 3 seasons.


ABOUT THE BEARCATS

Willamette forward Ryan Rahlfs was named Honorable Mention Player of the Week in the NWC, following his 31 pt, 10 rebound performance over the weekend. It is the first time Rahlfs has been honorable mention this season. David Force (2), Miles Sandgathe (1), John Olinger (1) and Brennan Garrelts (1) have also garnered the same honor this year.

After battling early season injury problems, Willamette is now 9-3 with its projected starting line-up (Force, John Olinger, Harold Sublett, Jr., Miles Sandgathe, Brennan Garrelts) in place.

If the season ended today, WU would finish in 2nd place for the 3rd consecutive season. However, without the NWC post season tournament, the Bearcats would be finished playing for the year (unlike the previous two seasons of semi-final and championship game action). Willamette has yet to earn a bid to the NCAA DIII tournament, despite the recent string of success (including the 2000 NWC tourney title…the only year the tourney champion was not awarded an automatic bid to the NCAA’s) WU continues to lead the NWC in one defensive category: total points allowed per game (67.4).

Willamette still leads the NWC in home attendance, averaging 1225 fans a game in Cone Fieldhouse. The Bearcats in Salem are now 27-3 the past three seasons.

Sensational freshman point guard Josh Erickson was injured in Saturday night’s loss to PLU, and his status remains questionable for this week’s action.

ABOUT PACIFIC

Head Coach Ken Schuman’s Boxers enter Tuesday’s game at 10-12 (6-7). A hard-nosed, competitive bunch, Pacific has been lead throughout the 2003-2004 campaign by senior point guard Erin Gram and freshman shooting guard Branden Kawazoe. Averaging 12.0 and 12.9 ppg respectively, the two have allowed the Boxers to remain dangerous despite the midseason loss of post Joe Van Domelin. The Bearcats defeated Pacific 61-54 earlier in the year.

ABOUT LINFIELD

The Wildcats of Linfield enter this weekend at 14-8 (9-4). Head Coach Larry Doty’s squad had been alive in the race for the NWC crown up until a home setback against Whitworth last Saturday. Blake Shelton (14.4) leads the Wildcats in scoring, making up for midseason departure of former All-NWC guard OJ Gulley (who left the team to concentrate on football). Linfield’s size poses a formidable challenge for the undersized Bearcats, who defeated the Wildcats 74-61 earlier in the year.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Willamette pts. rebs. Assts.
1. David Force 14.7 5.1 3.7
2. John Olinger 12.1 2.7
3. Harold Sublett, Jr. 8.9 5.5 2.1
4. Miles Sandgathe 11.4 5.6 1.4
5. Brennan Garrelts 7.1 4.2

PACIFIC
1. Erin Gram 12.0 3.2 5.5
2. Branden Kawazoe 12.9 2.5 3.2
3. Rahim Tufts 7.6 3.5 1.3
4. BJ Anderson 9.0 6.2
5. Phil Burns 3.7

LINFIELD
1. Joe Neil 6.4 4.0
2. Blake Shelton 14.4 4.2 1.5
3. John Broussard 8.3 4.6
4. Sam Kreiger 8.3 5.4 1.9
5. Nick Fusare 9.4 5.8