The GNAC tourney awaits SPU

Konner Hancock

The men’s basketball team can make the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament, but it’s a stretch.

Last week the Falcons were focused on making strides towards the No. 3 spot in the conference, but that goal was crushed early on after suffering a loss, 80-76 to the Saint Martin’s Saints, on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

The Saints clinched the third seed in the GNAC, which ensured their spot in the tourney.

Although SPU failed to reach No. 3, they still have a shot to earn a place in the tournament, and their pursuit started on a positive note with a 74-60 win over Montana State Billings last Saturday, Feb. 17.

The game against MSB was Falcon Coleman Wooten’s third straight game scoring over 20 points.

Wooten tallied 19 of his season-high 26 points during the first half.

In this particular matchup he led the leaderboards in scoring, shooting a healthy 54 percent overall and 66 percent from the strife.

His career high score during a game came last season where he tailed 35 points.

Along with Wooten’s impressive scoring, he and teammate Trey Miller led the teams rebounding with each of them ending up with seven boards.

“Right now, our goal is to clinch a spot in the conference tournament, and we took a big step in doing so with a great team win Saturday in Billings,” said Grant Lee, the men’s basketball Head Coach.

Although the win was big, earring their seed in the GNAC tournament is difficult especially with the loss to the Saints last Tuesday.

“A tough loss for sure, but we can still do some great things with the remainder of our season… We are focused on playing to our standard, to our capability regardless of the opponent,” Leep said.

The Falcons came only four points short of tying the game. Collectively SPU shot 44 percent on their field goals, but free-throws and three-point percentages are a different story.

The Falcon’s free-throw and three-point percentages were soaring in the first half, both at a solid 75 percent.

SPU even led by six at the end of the first half, but the second half and one over time seemed to watch the good shooting come to an end.

Free-throws eventually fell to 45 percent and three-point shots plummeted to 38 percent.

Even with the lower rate of points the Falcons held stride, earning a couple of leads in the second half and always staying close when behind.

But the loss is all behind the team now, Leep said. After the victory over MSB the Falcons are charging forward.

The 15-10 overall Falcons will enter the final week of conference play in no worse than fifth place with the top-six earning berths to the GNAC Tournament, March 1-3 in Anchorage, Alaska.

“We have tough challenge ahead this week with two good teams coming to Royal Brougham,” Leep said. “All of our attention and focus is on playing our way and as best we can.”

SPU faces off, at home, against Central Washington who is tied with SPU for fourth and then will stay home to battle the No. 7 Northwest Nazarene.

“We have a great opportunity this week with CWU and NNU coming to town,” Leep said. “This week has some big implications for how the standing finish, as well as giving us a chance to honor the dedication, hard work, and sacrifice made by our two seniors, Hunter Eisenhower and EJ Poulsen.
They are both an important part of what we do and we hope to finish well.”

The two seniors will have their last two games with the Falcons on Thursday, against Central and then Saturday, against Northwest Nazarene.