Men’s basketball out in quarterfinal

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Men’s basketball out in quarterfinal

Jawan Stepney looks toward the basket during a home game in Nicholson Pavilion during the 2017-18 regular season.

Jawan Stepney looks toward the basket during a home game in Nicholson Pavilion during the 2017-18 regular season.

Jack Lambert

Jawan Stepney looks toward the basket during a home game in Nicholson Pavilion during the 2017-18 regular season.

Jack Lambert

Jack Lambert

Jawan Stepney looks toward the basket during a home game in Nicholson Pavilion during the 2017-18 regular season.

Miles King, Staff Reporter

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CWU Men’s Basketball closed their season with an 87-84 overtime loss to Saint Martin’s University (SMU) in Anchorage March 1.

CWU was led by freshman guard Khalil Shabazz who scored 23 points, 13 rebounds and had five assists.  Senior forward Sage Woodruff added 15 points coming off the bench. In total, three players scored double digits.

“They needed me to step up; all of us needed to step up to be able to win that game,” Shabazz said.

SMU advanced in the tournament to play the second seed Western Washington University (WWU). SMU beat WWU in the following round, but was defeated in the GNAC championship game by Western Oregon University.

After their loss to SMU, CWU will begin their offseason training for the 2018-2019 season in about three to five weeks.

“It all depends on us to be honest,” said junior guard Malik Montoya. “In general, we usually might just take a week or two off just to let our bodies heal up, then we’re back at it.”

The Wildcats finished the season with an overall record of 15-13, and a conference record of 10-10. CWU started the season slow, going 4-4 through the first eight games. From there, they won four in a row over GNAC opponents Montana State University Billings (MSUB) and Northwest Nazarene University (NNU).

The best run of the the season was during a six game win streak from late January to early February. The Wildcats earned important wins against rival WWU at home and another against the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“We were starting to realize how we could play together and we were really buying into our roles,” said senior forward Jerome Bryant. “Chemistry formed right before we played Western. We were excited to play them, especially here.”

Injuries have played a major role in the Wildcats season. Senior guard Marc Rodgers and junior forward Drake Rademacher missed significant time due to various injuries. In their absence, players such as Shabazz had to step into larger roles.

“Me and Marc have kind of built a relationship. He was more of a mentor,” Shabazz said. “The best I could do is kind of pick his mind, try to take from him and add to what I already know and what I’m already capable of and just build off that.”

Shabazz’s experience this year will be tremendously helpful for the remainder of his time at CWU. Bryant is confident in the team going forward with players such as Shabazz and Montoya leading the team in the coming seasons.

“I feel like the young guys are pretty experienced,” Bryant said. “They’re going to be good next year.”

According to assistant coach Drew Harris, the ultimate goal for the team is to win the GNAC championship. Montoya will be a senior next season after transferring from Seattle University prior to this season.

“We can build by trying to just learn from our mistakes and just try to get better,” Montoya said. “Become better teammates, better players, coaches and just everything in general.”

For Bryant, his last season at CWU ended just short of the team goal. The biggest thing Bryant will take away from this season and his time overall on the team is the comradery and relationships he has developed.  

“I think this last year went pretty well. I think it was my most fun season,” Bryant said. “You create bonds and friendships for a lifetime.”

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Men’s basketball out in quarterfinal