Men’s basketball blasts way through semifinal, falls in championship game
By Peter Melling /// Sports Editor
The men’s basketball team is on the rise. Even though they lost their championship game to the Whitworth University Pirates 69-58, the squad has made strides towards a promising future. Following a 15-10 regular season (10-6 in conference play), the Pioneers pounded the Whitman College Boxers 84-73 on Feb. 26 to win their first playoff game under head coach Dinari Foreman. How were the Pios able to get so far, and how will their successes prepare them for future seasons?
One of the factors in the team’s playoff push was how they jived in their regular season and raised their level of play. They not only matched their 10-6 conference record from last year, but also improved in several areas. For the whole team, rebounds per game improved from 42.8 to 43.4 and the road record jumped from 5-7 to 7-6.
Also, many star players improved their stats. Serg Ovchinnikov (’16) increased his points per game average from 10.2 to 13.3, while his minutes per game average went up from 19.1 to 29.6. Jason Luhnow (’16) saw his rebounds per game average rise from 3.9 to 5.9, as well as his ppg average (7.1 to 10.3) and minutes (25.8 to 31.9). Luhnow especially shined in the playoffs, where he scored a career-high 27 points against Whitman and 14 versus Whitworth, to go alongside seven rebounds in each game.
Additionally, transfer player Carl “CJ” Appleton (’16) averaged 10.3 ppg, 26.5 minutes, and 8.7 rpg. In recognition of his efforts, the Northwest Conference named Appleton to the All-Conference Second Team, alongside Ovchinnikov and Luhnow.
Before the playoffs, 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.”
It seems that this additional practice and the hot streak paid off well, as the Pios remained competitive throughout the playoff games. Against Whitworth, the Pios’ bench scored 27 points, 18 of those coming from Jonathan Boddie (’18). Appleton (’16) also led the team in rebounds, with nine boards. In the championship game, the bench added 22 points, alongside 10 rebounds from Bradley Carter (’15).
Even though the team did not clinch the Northwest Conference Championship, their window is still open. They will only lose two fourth-years (Bradley Carter and Justin Leathers (’15), and stars like Luhnow, Ovchinnikov and Appleton will be all the more experienced and ready to make a statement in the NWC. The men’s basketball squad has much to be proud of, and they have a fine base to build on for years to come.