Falcons end season with loss

Even though it was senior night, the Falcon senior basketball players did not think it would be their final game.

But after losing 105-102 and missing out on the postseason for the first time in six years, Seattle Pacific saw its season come to an end–a season full of promise yet wrought with disappointment.

The Falcons only needed a win against a mediocre Central Washington team on Saturday night to all but cement a spot in the West Regional tournament.

In front of a raucous crowd and with the motivation of senior night to push them, Seattle Pacific should have had no problem putting the Wildcats away. Instead, the Falcons came out sluggish and quickly fell behind by nine in the first eight minutes. Sophomore center Jason Chivers played well in the first half, scoring 10 points, but his teammates failed to pick up the slack.

The Falcons kept the game close throughout, but never led until an 8-0 run put them up 95-94 with two 1/2 minutes left. Freshman forward Jeff Knudson had two three-pointers in the Falcon comeback. The SPU run came shortly after it was announced that Humboldt State had lost its game against Western Oregon the same night, giving the Falcons a chance to share the Great Northwest Athletic Conference crown with a win.

The game went back and forth until senior forward Yusef Aziz tied things up at 99 with a foul shot. The Wildcats’ Scott Freymond then drove the length of the court for a layup with only 45 seconds left. Aziz missed a floater in the lane seconds later, and Central Washington’s Kasey Ulin sank four free throws in the final 25 seconds to keep his team on top.

Seattle Pacific’s freshman point guard Tony Binetti stole an inbounds pass with 1.8 seconds left, but his off-balance three-point try that would have sent the game to overtime hit the front rim.

Seniors Aziz and Gene Woodard played well in the second half, finishing with 21 and 17 points, respectively. Chivers also scored 17, and Aziz pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds.

Freymond and Ulin led the Wildcats in scoring with 23 and 18 points, respectively. Central Washington shot 59 percent from the field in a game marred by 45 combined turnovers and 57 fouls.

Seattle Pacific had to wait and see until Monday afternoon to find out if their 16-11 record would be good enough to get into the West Regional tournament. The Falcons were ranked No. 6 in the West region prior to their games last weekend, and the top eight teams from the region qualified for the playoffs.

When the news came out, it was conference co-champions Humboldt State and Alaska Fairbanks who earned the invitations to the NCAA Division II Tournament and not the Falcons.

The announcement ended what was an interesting season for the men’s team. In head coach Jeff Hironaka’s first year, the team started 5-1, lost back-to-back home games for the first time in five years, won six of seven to get back in the playoff picture, defeated then No. 3-ranked Humboldt State in four overtimes, lost to one of the GNAC’s lowest ranked teams Northwest Nazarene, and still had a chance to make the postseason going into the final game of the year.

Aziz finished in the top 10 in the GNAC in scoring, and Chivers led the conference in field goal percentage. Freshman Jeff Knudson was tops in three-point percentage.

The Falcons finished 16-11 overall and 12-6 in the conference.

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Title: Falcons end season with loss | Author: Kevan Lee | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2003-03-12 | Internal ID: 3238