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Wildcats hope to earn a first round victory for third consecutive year in GNAC tournament

Jaryd Cline, Staff Reporter - March 6, 2013

With their backs against the wall the past couple of weeks and control of their own destiny in hand, the Central Washington University Wildcats won their first game since Feb. 7, defeating Western Oregon University last Thursday.

The victory stamped their ticket to the post-season conference tournament.
After advancing to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament, the Wildcats (14-12 overall 8-10 GNAC) will look to win their opening game for the third year in a row when they play will battle the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves (18-8 overall, 11-7 GNAC) tonight for the chance to extend their season.

The Wildcats finished the season as the sixth seed in the GNAC, narrowly edging out Northwest Nazarene University for the final spot in the tournament.

Just one win was needed this past weekend for the Wildcats to guarantee themselves a spot in the single-elimination GNAC tournament.

A short-handed Wildcat team took care of business against WOU at home, defeating them 107-87.

The Wildcats were without senior forward Derrick Davis and junior forward Kevin Davis (no relation), the two tallest players on the team.

The run-and-gun offense that the Wildcat’s implemented was just too much in the end for WOU as the Wildcats shot 58 percent from the field and 45 percent from down town.

“I think the guys knew what was riding on the game. Our backs were against the wall and they needed to step up and get it done,” head coach Greg Sparling said. “We kept switching up the defenses and I thought that really helped.”

Junior guard Mark McLaughlin once again paced the Wildcats in scoring with 29 points on 10-14 shooting to go along with nine rebounds.

In just his eighth start of the season, senior guard Jordan Coby scored a career high 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out five assists in his best game as a Wildcat.

A win on senior night would have bumped the Wildcats from the sixth seed to the fifth seed, but the Saint Martin’s University Saints spoiled the Wildcat seniors’ final home game, defeating Central 82-71.

The Wildcats enter the GNAC tournament as the sixth seed for the second straight season.

“Making the GNAC tournament is an accomplishment no matter how we look at it,” senior guard Jordan Starr said. “We have not had the season we expected to have but we still have the opportunity to win three games at the tournament.”

Central and UAA split in both its meetings earlier this year, with each home team winning. The first matchup of the season saw Central knock off the No. 25 ranked Seawolves 81-72.
The game came down to the final minute after two UAA free-throws tied the game up at 72.

McLaughlin iced the game by scoring nine points in the final 35 seconds.
Central took great care of the ball, only committing five turnovers compared to 14 UAA turnovers, which led to 23 points off turnovers for the Wildcats.

The second matchup of the season was a different story, as the Wildcats fell in Anchorage 69-98. The Seawolves finished the game shooting 55 percent from the field and 56 percent from the three point zone.

The Seawolves are led this season by junior guard Kyle Fossman. Fossman leads the team with 15 points per game and is one of the conference’s most lethal shooters, finishing the season with the second most three pointers in the GNAC.

Teancum Stafford is second on the Seawolves in scoring, averaging 14.5 points per game, and along with Fossman, ranks in the GNAC top-ten for three-pointers made this season.

The Wildcats and Seawolves are no strangers when it comes to meeting in the post season.
In the previous two GNAC post season tournaments, Central and Anchorage have faced each other twice and split the games.

In 2011, the first year of the GNAC tournament, the Wildcats defeated the Seawolves in the championship game 83-71.

The following year both teams met in the semifinals, with a different outcome from the year before.

The Seawolves beat the Wildcats 93-81 before going on to lose the championship game to Montana State Billings.

A loss would eliminate the Wildcats from the tournament and their chance of continuing post season play.

A win would pair the Wildcats with in-state rival Seattle Pacific University (23-3 overall 16-2 GNAC) for the semifinal game.

The Wildcats lost their previous two games to SPU this season by an average of 24 points.

“They know it’s a one game season, and once you lose, a lot of people will be hanging up their uniforms,” Sparling said. “We have to take it one game at a time.”

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