The Seattle Pacific University Falcons notched two key wins last week to continue the season unbeaten, boosting their high national ranking and cementing a right to claim the unofficial title of "best in the West."
The wins-over the rival Western Washington Vikings and Central Washington Wildcats-also established SPU's clear in-state superiority.
The high-flying Falcons, ranked 4th in the NCAA Division II coaches poll last week, are poised to move even higher, as first-ranked North Dakota University lost at home to 10th-ranked South Dakota Saturday night.
Senior guard Jackie Hollands led Falcon scoring for the week with a combined 45 points in both games.
Hollands' 25 points in the Saturday, Jan. 19, win (83-71) at Central's Nicholson Pavilion came on 8-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-8 from behind the three-point arc. Her 30 minutes were complemented by 3 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
But the win was a typical team effort for SPU head coach Julie van Beek's squad. Junior Kelsey Hill, a solid 6-foot-2 post player with a nice touch around the key, had 18 points and 6 rebounds. Hill has been the Falcons top rebounder in 10 of their 15 games. Senior point guard Beth Christensen added a game-high 9 assists to go along with her ten points.
Sophomore guard Daesha Henderson put up 10 points and pulled down 3 boards. All nine Falcon players scored in the effort, which proved the fourth loss in a row for Central, a team that started the season 9-0.
SPU's Thursday night 86-44 blowout at Western's Carver Gymnasium started out as anything but. Western's young, injury-depleted Vikings came out strong and held an 11-5 lead after five minutes. But the more experienced Falcons soon found their rhythm and fashioned a 39-30 lead at halftime.
The second half was a different story as SPU totally dominated, holding Western to 14 points while scoring 47 themselves. For the game, the Falcons had 17 steals to Western's 10; 27 assists to Western's 9; and out-rebounded the home team 38 to 28.
SPU shot 58 percent for the game and 37 percent from three-point range, while holding Western to 13 percent from behind the arc. Again, every Falcon player scored.
Hollands once more led all scorers with 20 points, adding a game-high 6 assists and 5 steals.
Junior transfer Kelsey Burns had 14 points on efficient 6-of-8 shooting. The whippet-quick Henderson added another 14 on 7-of-9 shooting, most coming on breakaways following turnovers. Both players notched their totals in just 20 minutes of play.
Curiously, although SPU is one of only four Division II undefeated teams remaining in the country, and its 15-0 record leads the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, the team is so well-balanced that it doesn't lead the league in any one statistical category.
The Falcon women host two home games this week, against Montana State-Billings (Thursday, Jan. 24, at 5:30 p.m.) and crosstown rival Seattle University (Saturday, Jan. 26, at 1:30 p.m.). The games are the front end of women's/men's double headers highlighting SPU's homecoming weekend.
The SPU men-certainly no slouches themselves, with an 11-3 record-face Western Oregon at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and St. Martin's on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Since its preseason exhibition upset over the Division I University of Washington women Nov. 6, coach van Beek's squad has proven itself to be hard-working and resilient, finding different ways to win both at home and in difficult road contests. A dozen games remain in their regular season-seven at home and all against conference rivals.
The SPU women aim to maintain their best-in-West record and host the NCAA West tournament in mid-March. They face, however, a challenging, three-game stretch of road contests in early February against improving Northwest Nazarene, as well as the two Alaska state universities.
Robert Marritz is a freelance reporter living in Queen Anne. He can be reached via email@example.com.[[In-content Ad]]