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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Western basketball gobbles up competition

By Mitch Farley

The record books show a perfect weekend for Western basketball. Not allowing the turkey coma to slow them down, both the men’s and women’s team went 2-0 at Sam Carver Gymnasium.

The games were part of the Thanksgiving Tournament at Carver Gym on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 23 and 24. The men’s team started the weekend with a 107-81 win against Capilano University and the women’s team followed with a win over University of Mary, 73-72.

Men’s Head Coach Tony Dominguez said the team didn’t quite get off to the start they’d hoped to, but quickly turned up the intensity in the second half.

Just before halftime, redshirt junior Elijah Cotton-Welch helped the Vikings gain some momentum. Cotton-Welch intercepted a pass from a Capilano point guard and flew down the court for a wide-open layup.

Western Washington University men’s basketball player Braden Ahlemeyer rebounds the ball during a game against Langara College on Nov. 24, 2018. The Vikings won the game 129-55. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin

“My team needed energy and I knew I could bring that,” Cotton-Welch said.

On Capilano’s very next possession, he made the exact same play.

“[Cotton-Welch is] a defensive stud,” Dominguez said. “His niche is he’s a very good defender and 3-point shooter.”

KJ Bosco also played a vital role in the Vikings’ second-half success with 14 points and nine rebounds. Dominguez said the junior forward had knee surgery last year and wasn’t healthy until two weeks ago. Dominguez added that he sees Bosco as a valuable weapon for the team going forward.

“I’ve been waiting for my time to go, and I finally got it,” Bosco said.

Junior guard Tucker Eenigenburg had a weekend for the books as he led the Vikings in scoring in both games. Friday, he scored a career-high 15 points.

The women’s team followed up with a nail-biting tournament sweep on Friday, Nov. 23, showcased during the 21st annual Lynda Goodrich Classic over the University of Mary. The final two buckets for Western were perfect showcases of junior guard Dani Iwami and Anna Schwecke’s talents.

Schwecke, a junior center, helped her team battle all night and scored the points that tied that game at 70 with under a minute left on the clock.

Rick Neumann, head coach for the University of Mary, said he was happy with the way his team competed.

Guard Gracie Castenada goes for a layup on Saturday, Nov. 24, against University of Mary. // Photo by Jaden Moon

“In the end, Western made one more play than we did and took the win. Their pressure defense really got to us in the fourth quarter,” Neumann said.

The Vikings reset with Iwami at point guard. She made a quick step to the left and beat Mary’s center for a one-handed layup to put the Vikings ahead 72-70.

“I saw there was no one on help side and it just worked out,” Iwami said modestly.

Head coach Carmen Dolfo said she was very happy with the way her team stayed composed in the last seconds of the game.

“Dani is such a good creator, her penetrations are definitely huge for us,” Dolfo said.

Friday wasn’t the only winning day for the Vikings as they went on to seal secondary victories on Saturday, Nov. 24. The men’s team breezed past Langara College in a 129-55 victory. The women’s team followed with a victory over University of Minnesota Crookston, 78-68.

Eenigenburg continued the heat from Friday and led the Vikings in scoring again. He scored a new career-high on Saturday with 28 points. Eenigenburg was wet from the 3-point range as he shot an impressive 8-9.

Redshirt junior guard Micah Winn showed his usual composed presence and impressive ball control and finished the game with a solid 21 points. Cotton-Welch was another threat, following up his Friday performance with four steals and nine points.

Dominguez said he’s excited to see the young guys step up.

“I think we have the best freshmen in the country,” Bosco said.

Music to the ears of Western basketball fans.

The fun didn’t stop as the women’s team took the court next against Crookston. The Vikings’ efforts were spearheaded by sophomore center Kelsey Rogers who scored 23 points. Iwami also added a characteristic seven assists with a smooth touch, feeding Schwecke in the paint.

The score was close throughout the first three quarters, but the Vikings’ press defense and efficient offense helped them pull away in the fourth.

The rally started when junior guard Lexie Bland took a charge from a Crookston player who drove down the lane to make a layup. The basket was counted as no good and the Vikings proceeded to go on a 10-2 run. A lead they held for the rest of the game.

Dolfo said each week the team focuses on one aspect for improvement. This week it was composure. Schwecke said the team did very well at staying calm and didn’t get too frantic.

The Great Northwest Athletic Conference season play began this week. The women’s team plays against Montana State University at home for an in-conference game on Saturday, Dec. 1.

The men’s team moved to 5-1 after securing the victories. They begin conference play against Concordia University on Thursday, Nov. 29.

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