History repeats itself in ironic ways.
Facing near insurmountable odds, the SPU men’s basketball team found themselves down 44-25 at halftime against Central Washington University (CWU) in Ellensburg on Saturday. Shooting a dismal 32.1 percent for the first half, and only sinking four of 11 3-point shots, the Falcons needed all but a miracle to pull out a victory.
Sixty points in one half might be considered a miracle.
With four seconds left in the second half, the Falcons found themselves down by three, inbounding at the other end of the court, and having scored 57 points in the half. Dribbling past half court, junior Marques Echols threw up a shot from 35 feet out on the right side, and as the buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read 85-85.
That momentous half would be short-lived though, as the Falcons (12-7, 5-3) were unable to halt any further progress by the Wildcats, who outscored SPU 13-6 in the five-minute overtime period to take the win, 98-91, making for the second straight week of an SPU road loss on Saturday after a Thursday victory.
"Central, like [Seattle University], was physically more aggressive, and we backed off a bit," head coach Jeff Hironaka said of the first half. He said that the second half was nearly a total opposite, as the Falcons were able to up their aggressive play, and CWU backed theirs off due to the lead they had gathered.
"Even though we’re not in first place, everybody still wants to beat us because we are supposedly the ‘marked’ team," Hironaka said.
The Falcons started off flat, and in the past have had a hard time gaining momentum throughout the game. The same struggles plagued SPU against CWU, but unlike history would suggest, the Falcons busted out of their rut by erasing the Wildcats’ 20-point lead at one point in the second half.
Echols paved the way for the Falcons, scoring a season-high 24 points in the contest, including the overtime-forcing 3-pointer. Senior Dustin Bremerman left his mark on the Wildcats, putting up 22 points over 42 minutes of play. Bremerman fouled out with just over a minute and a half remaining in overtime. Junior Rob Will followed Echols and Bremerman, marking 19 to his name before the final buzzer sounded. Will led the team in rebounding with nine.
Just like the week before, the Falcons once again broke the century mark against a Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) team Thursday, defeating conference-leading Saint Martin’s University (SMU) 100-90 at home in Royal Brougham Pavilion.
Starting the game on a 15-6 run, the Falcons seemed poised to upset the conference leaders. The lead never amounted to more than 10 points though, until sophomore transfer Casey Reed received a fast-break pass and threw down a monstrous dunk over the Saints, getting fouled in the process. Reed would miss his free throw shot, but the Falcons now led by 11 with 6:30 remaining in the first half.
The lead would come back down toward the end of the half, with SPU leading 46-39 at halftime, but a 17-4 run over the first six minutes of the second half by the Falcons would prove insurmountable for the Saints.
SMU gained some momentum over the final minutes of the game, following a hard foul by SPU’s JoJay Jackson on SMU’s Stephon Harris. Harris had a fast break down the left side of the court with nobody around him. Jackson, a junior transfer, darted across the court as Harris was mid-air attempting his lay-in, and the two collided below the rim. Harris was turned horizontal, and fell hard to the baseline on his right hip; Jackson flew to his right.
After several minutes, Harris finally came to his feet and was escorted off of the court, not to return for the contest. Jackson was charged with the flagrant foul, and SMU sank both of their free throws to make it a 79-61 SPU advantage.
"Whenever the game stops for that long, it stops the momentum," Reed said. "It’s tough to get going after a break like that."
Bremerman said that the foul did spark the Saints a little bit, and SMU outscored SPU 29-21 over the next six and a half minutes.
"Every good team is going to make a run; it’s just how you handle it," Bremerman said.
Bremerman led the Falcons in the contest with 23 points, and going a perfect six-for-six from the free-throw line. Jackson was close behind with 17 and redshirt freshman Rob Diederichs came off the bench for 16 in merely 18 minutes.
The Falcons can now put the boarding passes and plane food to rest for the next week and a half, as they host their next three contests, beginning tomorrow with Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) at 7:30 p.m.
As a coach, Hironaka is generally pleased with the way the first half of the season went for the Falcons, naming the undefeated home winning streak as a major positive for his team. He realizes that his team is still making some of the same mistakes from the beginning of the year, but Hironaka is ever the optimist.
With his mind set on repeating as the GNAC champs, Hironaka knows what it takes to get there.
"You have to win on the road, and win all of your home games if you want to win the championship," Hironaka said. "We can’t look beyond conference right now… if we can do that, then we know we will have a chance to play in the postseason."
Five of the Falcons’ final eight games of the regular season will be at home in Royal Brougham Pavilion, beginning with NNU tomorrow, and cross-town rival Seattle University Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
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Title: Falcons fall after late run | Author: Ryan Phillips | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2007-01-31 | Internal ID: 5390