SPU to host regionals

For the third year in a row, SPU will host the NCAA Division II West Regional Women’s Basketball Tournament thanks to a weekend sweep of the Alaska schools by the No. 4-ranked Falcons.

The Falcons (25-2) not only have experience as an advantage to carry with them this weekend, but they also boast a 28-game home winning streak. In fact, SPU has only one loss in its last 64 home games, a record spanning the last several seasons.

Those numbers are very inviting for fans and team members alike as SPU (seeded No. 1) tries to get back to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year.

"It’s always rewarding to be seeded No. 1 and to be selected as host," said SPU Coach Gordy Presnell. "It’s always exciting, no matter whether it’s your first time or your team has been here before."

For seniors Michelle Beaumont and Trisha Hermanson, this will be the fourth year that they will have competed in the regional tournament. Beaumont and Hermanson do not take their team’s presence in the tournament for granted. They both realize how rare it is for a player to reach regionals for their entire college career.

"This one [the tournament] has the most significance, because I’m a senior and it’s my last chance," Beaumont said.

The team is heavily favored to repeat as West region champions and return to the Elite Eight. However, they will need to win three tough games over the weekend, including a possible rematch with Western Washington in the final.

"Our season will either end on a loss or in a national championship," Hermanson pointed out. She would later say that however the season finishes, it will be an emotional exit for her and her teammates.

As for the trip to Alaska, juniors Brittney Kroon and Jenny Poe paved the way for the Falcons in their regular season finales. Kroon finished the weekend with 23 points and 11 blocked shots, while Poe poured in 25 points over the two games.

Kroon’s nine blocked shots against Anchorage moved her into first place all-time in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) for blocks. She now has 270 blocked shots in her career. The center is happy to have the record, but does not let it deter her from the main goal of winning a championship.

"I think it’s just a bonus," Kroon said. The Falcons will need her "bonus" abilities as they continue their quest for a championship. Kroon, an Alaska native, had a gallery of family and friends on hand to watch her break the record.

Thursday’s game against the Fairbanks Nanooks proved to be a test for the conference’s top team. After grabbing a 14-point halftime lead, the Falcons watched the Nanooks take a one-point lead in the middle of the second half.

The teams remained less than five points apart until the three minute mark, when SPU pulled away for a 76-65 victory.

"Fairbanks is a rough place to play," Kroon commented, referring to the school’s remote location and severe weather.

The Falcons rolled into Anchorage on Saturday already having clinched the conference title and most likely the region’s top spot. However, that didn’t stop the team from executing as they blitzed the Seawolves to begin the game. Poe led the team in scoring with 13 points and SPU rarely led by less than ten points throughout the contest.

The final score was 66-50, but the Falcons could have stretched that margin if not for the poor shooting (39 percent).

The team is excited about playing in front of its fans for the third consecutive year. Poe explained that most people on the team, herself included, have experienced this tournament at home one or two times before. Getting to sleep in one’s own bed and play in a home gym are big advantages, Poe said.

Likely the biggest advantage that the Falcons will have is the fan support. All year the team has stressed the importance of the fans, and now fans will have a chance to help send SPU back to the Elite Eight.

"The best part about hosting is getting to have your home court and your home fans," Kroon observed. "We feel confident but we know that, at this level, anything can happen."

Seattle Pacific tips off against Montana State Billings (21-6) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Tickets cost $5 for students and can be purchased at either the ticket office or the box office. For box office hours, see The Falcon website: www.thefalcononline.com.

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Title: SPU to host regionals | Author: Grant Ludwick | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2005-03-09 | Internal ID: 4417