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Men’s basketball on the brink of elimination

Men%E2%80%99s+basketball+looks+on+at+their+teammates+during+their+recent+home+game+against+the+Alaska+Anchorage%0ASeawolves.+The+Wildcats+lost+once+again%2C+their+seventh+in+the+last+eight+games.
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Men’s basketball on the brink of elimination

Men’s basketball looks on at their teammates during their recent home game against the Alaska Anchorage
Seawolves. The Wildcats lost once again, their seventh in the last eight games.

Men’s basketball looks on at their teammates during their recent home game against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The Wildcats lost once again, their seventh in the last eight games.

Men’s basketball looks on at their teammates during their recent home game against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The Wildcats lost once again, their seventh in the last eight games.

Men’s basketball looks on at their teammates during their recent home game against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves. The Wildcats lost once again, their seventh in the last eight games.

Austin Lane, For The Observer

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With four games left in the regular season, the CWU men’s basketball team will more than likely not be preparing for the 2019 GNAC men’s basketball championship. The GNAC takes six out of the top 11 teams in the conference to the tournament. Currently, the Wildcats sit in tenth place and are  one loss from being mathematically eliminated from contention.

After starting the season on a three-game conference losing streak, the team returned home and won two out of three against GNAC opponents Montana State University Billings and Simon Fraser University. The Wildcats then lost to WWU and University of Alaska Anchorage. In their next game, the Wildcats defeated University of Alaska Fairbanks in head coach Greg Sparling’s first game against CWU after coaching the Wildcats for more than 30 years.

Since that win, the team has gone on a 1-7 skid, putting them out of contention for the postseason. Their only win was yet again against Alaska Fairbanks in Sparling’s homecoming game.

Wildcat head coach Brandon Rinta sees improvement in his team, but knows getting to the top of the GNAC isn’t an automatic process.

Rinta will begin to find replacements for seniors finishing their last season on the team.

Rinta said he has tremendous respect for seniors Naim Ladd, Malik Montoya, Drake Rademacher and Jackson Price.

“I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to coach them this season,” Rinta said. “I’m grateful for their dedication to academics… I’m as proud of them as anything.”

Ladd reflected on his time at CWU and had mixed emotions about it coming to an end.

“It’s kinda been a bittersweet moment for me, kinda sad at the same time too. I’ve been enjoying this last ride with my brothers and I’m just having fun at the end of the day,” Ladd said.

CWU barely lost both games this season to the current number two team in the GNAC, the Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) Nighthawks. In their first matchup, the Wildcats led 87-83 with 2:57 left in the game before ultimately losing 90-87. In their second meeting, the Wildcats dominated the Nighthawks at home in the first half and led the game 57-41 at the break. NNU started the second half on a 37-23 run to tie it up at 80 a piece and eventually won 96-93.

The team’s final regular game of the season will be against Saint Martin’s University (SMU), another team CWU did well against this year. SMU is the current number one team in the GNAC. In the first game between the two teams earlier this season, CWU showed signs of keeping up with the GNAC conference leaders, losing by only eight points. However, it was early in the season, and SMU only had a 1-0 conference record at the time.

With the season nearly over, players get a chance to continue progressing without having to worry about the stress levels of the regular season schedule.

“The offseason is about getting better individually. We’ll be focusing more on skill development, our guys are going to be able to focus on the weight room and reap the benefits there without having to worry about the pounding of the season,” Rinta said.

Heading into the final stretch, Rinta looks to reinforce the importance of team chemistry.

“More important than how players play is how players play together,” Rinta said. “Teams that play together always, if not for the most part, beat more talented teams that don’t play together.”

The team is on the road this week to take on Concordia University on Thursday and Western Oregon University on Saturday. After that, the team ends the season at home with games against Seattle Pacific University and SMU on Feb. 28 and March 2.

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