Split decisions against both Alaska schools last week by the SPU men’s basketball team have left the conference title within reach of up to four teams entering the last week of regular season play.
The Falcons (17-9, 10-5), ranked No. 25 in the national poll, are atop the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC), but only by the slimmest of margins. A mere half game separates SPU from cross-town rival Seattle University (SU) and Central Washington (CWU), while University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) is one full game back. UAA lost to SPU this weekend on senior night at Royal Brougham Pavilion, 89-80.
University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), who defeated the Falcons Thursday night 75-70, were still in contention at the time, until they lost to Northwest Nazarene University last night.
In Thursday’s game, the Nanooks stuck it to the Falcons early by out-rebounding and hustling SPU to go up by eight at halftime, 33-25.
UAF’s Kenny Barker proved lethal against SPU and their defense, lighting up the Falcons for 24 points, seven of which came during a pivotal run late in the second half. Senior Dustin Bremerman led the way for SPU, scoring 23 points in the contest. UAF swept the Falcons this season over both meetings.
"They out-hustled us to loose balls and really hurt us on the boards," head coach Jeff Hironaka said. "We had some bad possessions like every game, but in this game it really came down to the team that wanted it more on that night."
Saturday would prove better for the Falcons though, as they were able to defeat UAA on senior night, 89-80.
After trailing by 10 early, the Falcons went on an 18-3 run to end the first half, and led 38-33 at halftime. That run carried over into the second half, where UAA finally made a bucket after an 11-minute drought. From there, it was smooth sailing for the Falcons, who rolled on to victory in the four senior stars’ last home game contest.
"It is always nice to win your last home game," Hironaka said. "Last year CWU beat us on senior night, so this win was nice to get for the seniors."
Seniors Brian Lynch, Drew Matzen, Bremerman, and Austin Yuen were honored before the game and all got to see playing time before the game was over.
"For the seniors I think it was an emotional win," Hironaka said. "I know some of them were somewhat emotional after the game."
Bremerman led the Falcons again in scoring with 18, followed closely by junior Marques Echols who had 15.
SPU squares off against Western Washington (WWU) in Bellingham tomorrow night at 7 p.m. The Falcons have beaten WWU the last three times they have met, including the West Regional title game last year.
Despite the Falcons being atop the conference standings going into this weekend’s play, they do not control their own destiny. Even if the Falcons win at WWU, they will need both CWU and SU each to lose one of their weekend games to take the GNAC title. CWU plays at SU tomorrow night at 7 p.m., but they both face teams at the bottom of the conference on Saturday.
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Title: GNAC up for grabs | Author: Ryan Phillips | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2007-02-28 | Internal ID: 5473