Western men’s basketball was struggling. The team had lost seven of their last eight games. The Vikings were 15-14 overall and 9-11 in conference play. It took the help of the Western’s rival, Central Washington University, to clinch a spot in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.
None of that mattered for the Vikings on Thursday, March 3, as they arrived in Lacey, Washington for the GNAC tournament with a clean slate.
In a quarterfinal contest, the Vikings upset the third-seeded University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves 78-73. The Vikings were led by 31 points from junior forward Jeffrey Parker. Parker — a GNAC first team selection — was 11-15 from the field, 5-8 from three-point land and brought down six rebounds.
Just like the previous two meetings between the schools, it was a highly competitive matchup that featured eight lead changes over the course of the game. Ultimately though, beating the Vikings three times in one season proved too tough a task for the Seawolves.
Chipping in for Western was senior Kyle Impero with a double-double on 11 points and 12 rebounds. Another source of scoring came from the fresh-legged Ricardo Maxwell, who had missed the previous two games with a concussion, as he went for 18 points of his own. Maxwell also added six rebounds and six assists to match.
Next up for the Vikings is the University of Alaska-Fairbanks on at 12 p.m. Friday, March 4, at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.
Western is 1-1 this season against Alaska-Fairbanks, winning their away game 100-99 in overtime. The team dropped the game at home 78-64.
Alaska-Fairbanks forward Travante Williams is no stranger to the Vikings, and defending him will play a big factor in the semifinal game’s outcome. Williams is a first-team GNAC selection and averages 18.4 points per game, according to his player profile on Alaska-Fairbanks’ website. He netted 35 points in the overtime loss versus Western and 29 points in Nanooks’ win.
Western found similar success last year when it knocked off two higher seeded teams to reach the championship game. Western has previously knocked off Alaska-Fairbanks in this same semifinal round in both 2013 and 2014.
The game will be streaming live at http://www.gnacsports.com/mbasketball/championship/