After four tournaments in four weekends amounting to nine games in the month of November and three separate road destinations, Seattle Pacific’s men’s basketball team is happy to spend all of December on its home court of Royal Brougham Pavilion.
“We stayed 11 nights in a hotel in November,” head coach Ryan Looney said. “It’s hard on everybody.”
The Falcons culminated their early season tournament schedule by competing in the Mac Martin Invitational in Chico, Calif., for the second consecutive year this past weekend. They came away from the event with a split, eking out a high-scoring 101-96 victory over San Francisco State on Friday night and dropping a 73-70 result to host Chico State.
“At this point in the year, we have realized how hard we need to play each night to come away with wins,” senior forward Patrick Simon said. “We are going to get everyone’s best shot, and it is up to us to make sure we give our opponents our best shot, as well.”
Simon carried SPU in its victory Friday, converting on a school record 10 of 12 threes to finish with a career-high 33 points. The total eclipsed the previous benchmark of 9 matched by three different former Falcons.
“It’s impossible to fully describe how I was feeling during that streak during the game,” Simon said. “It felt like I was throwing a rock into a pond.”
Another big contributing factor in Friday’s barnburner was sophomore forward Mitch Penner. He achieved a career high as well, tallying 22 points, including 15 in the decisive second half. Penner has made a huge increase in impact this season, averaging over 22 minutes per game and around 8 points per game while serving as the team’s definitive sixth man.
“I am very excited that I have an increased role on the team this year,” Penner said. “It took a full year of learning before I got the opportunity, but I feel that a year of waiting my turn really humbled me and set me up for a position to play extended minutes this year. The large amount of talent this year forces defenses to focus fully on those threats, which opens up large holes for me to make an impact at times.”
The weekend wasn’t just purely business, though, as the team was en route to Chico on Thursday, they were still able to celebrate Thanksgiving as a team.
“We traveled on the day of Thanksgiving, making it feel like a long day,” Penner said. “We still celebrated as a team by going to Marie Callender’s and having a nice turkey dinner. It felt like one large family dinner while we were all together.”
The team now stands at 7-2 as it gears up to begin Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) play.
The past month and a half of play has helped them realize what they’re doing well and what they still need to work on.
“I think we have good chemistry and our group truly cares about each other,” Looney said. “We have some things we have to improve before we can realistically think about a GNAC Championship, though.”
The team will open up its conference slate with two games this week, welcoming Northwest Nazarene on Thursday and Central Washington on Saturday. After that, the Falcons will only play two more games the rest of the month, taking on Northwest Christian on Dec. 17 and Walla Walla on Dec. 21.
The squad will look to make its December on-court performance a gift to Looney.
“Coach’s Christmas will be great if we as a team improve in three particular areas,” Simon said. “Defense, rebounding and toughness.”