Men’s basketball wraps up successful regular season, prepares for playoffs
By Peter Melling /// Sports Editor
The playoffs begin! After a season in which they went 15-10 (10-6 in conference play), the men’s basketball squad is gearing up for their first playoff game of the year, a road contest against Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington on Feb. 26. How has the regular season lived up to the players expectations, and how will their successes prepare them for the rigor of the playoffs?
Over the course of the season, the team has capitalized on their potential. They not only matched their 10-6 conference play record from last year, but many of their star players improved their stats over last season. Serg Ovchinnikov (’16) rose his points per game average from 10.2 to 13.3 and saw his minutes per game jump by over 10 (19.1 to 29.6). Jason Luhnow (’16) saw his rebounds per game average grow from 3.9 to 5.9, as well as his ppg average (7.1 to 10.3). For the whole team, rebounds per game improved from 42.8 to 43.4 and the road record improved from 5-7 to 7-6.
Alongside the veterans, transfer player CJ Appleton (’16) joined the team’s top performers with 10.3 ppg, 26.5 minutes per game, and 8.7 rebounds per game. In recognition of his efforts, the Northwest Conference named Appleton to the All-Conference Second Team, alongside Ovchinnikov and Luhnow.
Of course, the chemistry of the team has helped greatly in their development throughout the season. When asked about his favorite memory of the season, Luhnow said, “I would say my favorite part of the season so far has been breakfasts with the team after our morning practices.”
Now the playoffs loom. On Feb. 26, the Pioneers will travel to Walla Walla, Washington to face the Whitman College Missionaries (14-2). This will be a tough matchup, as the Pios lost both of their games against Whitman this year, and the Missionaries have not lost a game since Jan. 17. However, the team is not fazed. As Luhnow said, “We’ve been playing well. We began the season with the expectation of a home playoff game but we are just focused on winning games right now, home or on the road. We’ve had a good week of practice, and I think the team is looking forward to getting out there and executing.”
Even if the team does not get beyond the semifinals, the men’s basketball squad still has much to be proud of, and a fine base to build a contender for years to come.
The Pioneers have beaten the Whitman Missionaries 84-73, the first victory in the semifinals under coach Dinari Foreman. Jason Luhnow (’16) put up a career-high 27 points, along with seven rebounds, three assists, and one block. The bench added 27 points, 18 of those coming from Jonathan Boddie (’18). CJ Appleton (’16) also led the team in rebounds, with nine boards. The team will face the Whitworth University Pirates in the Northwest Conference Championship in Spokane, Washington on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.