The Western men's basketball team secured a spot in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships on Saturday, Feb. 22, after beating Seattle Pacific University Falcons 73-68 at Sam Carver Gymnasium.
After beating the Falcons, who sit in first place atop the GNAC standings, the Vikings have now clinched a spot in the 2020 conference championships. They are tied for second-place with Northwest Nazarene University, with a 12-6 record in conference play.
Since the GNAC championship tournaments debuted in the 2010-11 season, Western has now advanced to play in eight out of nine of the tournaments with a 7-5 record.
“We’ve been preparing for this game for a couple of weeks,” Luke Lovelady said. “So, [this was] a huge win to come out on top of the number one team.”
Lovelady played 10 minutes in the game, all in the second half, but the junior forward provided a boost off the bench that the Vikings desperately needed.
“Coach [Tony Dominguez] looked at me and said, ‘You're ready,’ and I just said, ‘I'm ready to go,’” Lovelady said. “I'm always trying to stay level-headed in the game, even when I'm not playing just be there for my team and when my name is called go out there and do what I need to do.”
All eight of Lovelady’s points came in the final eight minutes of the game, including a go-ahead dunk in the last two minutes that secured the lead for the Vikings.
“Everybody stepped up, all the players, coaches were putting us in good positions to score but we were all showing up and we were hitting our shots when we needed to and getting defensive stops,” senior forward Trevor Jasinksy said. “[Seattle Pacific] made that run in the second half, I think we did a great job battling back and holding them off.”
Jasinsky poured in a game-high 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting and was 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
Early in the game, Jasinksy drained a 3-pointer that officially placed him 11th all-time in the Western career scoring leaders with 1,456 career points. He is now 9 points away from cracking the all-time Western top 10 in points scored.
Jasinsky said he wasn’t thinking about the all-time scorers at all during the game, he didn’t even know that his first basket moved him up on the list.
“I’m just happy that we got the win over everything today, but, you know, when it’s all said and done, it’s gonna be pretty cool to look back on it, but right now I’m just trying to be excited about the win,” Jasinsky said.
The rivalry was in full-force throughout the entire contest. Western and Seattle Pacific played through three tie scores during the second half of the game at 59-59, 61-61 and 67-67 in the last seven minutes of the game.
“It was a big game. [Seattle Pacific] is a really good team, they’re number one, we’re a really good team,” freshman guard D’Angelo Minnis said. “So it’s just part of the game, it’s ups and downs in a basketball game. I think as the game went along we both got more composed.”
Minnis ended the game with 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting with a career-high of 9 assists. One of his assists was to Lovelady in the last two minutes leading to his dunk that broke the 67-67 tie.
After Seattle Pacific’s Divant’e Moffitt hit one of two free throws, Lovelady gave the Vikings a three-point cushion in the last 32 seconds with a layup. Senior guard Leif Anderson was then fouled and hit both free throws to secure the victory.
Anderson was 3-for-6 from 3-point range against Seattle Pacific, he is now 12-for-16 from beyond the arc over the last four games. Anderson is 31-for-71 (43.7%) from the 3-point range for the season.
“We’ve been locked in everyday in practice, we know how important it is especially coming down towards the end of the season,” Lovelady said. “This was the biggest game of the season by far, we treated this as a championship game, so that was our mindset going into it.”
The Vikings joined Seattle Pacific and Northwest Nazarene University as three of the six teams that have clinched a spot in the 2020 GNAC men’s basketball championships that will be played March 5-7 at Royal Brougham Pavilion on Seattle Pacific’s campus.
“It was good, but we can’t get too high, can’t get too low. We just got to take care of the next one and keep going,” Minnis said.
The Vikings defeated Simon Fraser University, Feb. 25, 60-69 in their last home game of the season. Thursday, Feb. 27, Western will play Montana State University in Billings Montana.