Home sweet home
By Walker Sacon
Every player in uniform for the Western men’s basketball team played more than 10 minutes on Wednesday night as the No. 22 Vikings defeated Quest University 118-54 in their return to Sam Carver Gymnasium.
For many of the players, who spent the last two seasons playing their home games at Whatcom Community College while Carver Gym was being renovated, Wednesday was the first game on campus. Head coach Tony Dominguez, in his 23rd season at Western, said the team will benefit from the comfort level that comes with truly having a home for practices and games.
“Last year we practiced in a different gym and played in a different gym. This year, we’re able to practice on this floor 80 percent of the time. When you’re practicing somewhere else, and playing somewhere else and never able to get into the gym you’re playing in, it’s hard to get in rhythm,” Dominguez said.
Junior guard Siaan Rojas, a junior college transfer who redshirted last season for the Vikings, said playing in Carver after two years of junior college is a crazy feeling.
“With the fans in the new gym and the all-new facilities, it feels like a big-time college atmosphere,” Rojas said.
Senior forward Deandre Dickson, another junior college product who played his first game on WECU Court on Wednesday, said the return to Carver is an improvement over last season’s home away from home at Whatcom.
“It’s good to be home, I love the atmosphere and the energy,” Dickson said.
Dickson and sophomore forward Daulton Hommes led the way offensively for the Vikings with 23 and 18 points respectively in 21 minutes each.
The game included double-digit efforts from all five Viking starters and senior guard Brett Kingma, who contributed an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double off the bench.
Thirteen of Dickson’s points came in the first five minutes of the game as the team’s starting lineup asserted itself over the smaller Kermodes on their way to a 59-20 halftime lead.
“We could have gone to him every single time. We could give him and Daulton the ball every time, and they could get 35,” Dominguez said.
Size and athleticism are strengths of this year’s team, but the unit on the floor can still end up on the small side when the team’s biggest players are resting, Dominguez said.
The Vikings started four players taller than 6 feet 5 inches but often found themselves with relatively small lineups on the floor with tall forwards Dominick Oliveri, Trevor Jasinsky and Trey Drechsel sidelined due to injury, Dominguez said.
The versatility of players like Rojas, who finished with 17 points, six assists and eight rebounds from the starting guard spot was clear as the Vikings switched on screens defensively and shifted in and out of zone defense on a possession-to-possession basis.
“We’re so deep and a lot of guys can do different things. We can go with the big lineup like we did early in the game and then bring anybody in off the bench and we don’t lose anything,” Dickson said. “We’re a very versatile team, everybody can shoot, everybody can handle the ball.”
Rojas praised the team’s chemistry after the game, noting many of the players on this year’s team were playing together in game action for the first time on Wednesday.
“We were playing a lot of different line-ups for the first time, and I would say we gelled well,” he said.
The Vikings finished with 25 assists to only 10 turnovers, and shot 53.8 percent from the field in the game. The team is back in action at Carver next Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7:30 p.m. when they face Notre Dame De Namur in the PacWest/GNAC Conference Challenge.