WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Teams from San Francisco and Portland converge on the local area this week to battle Whitman and Walla Walla colleges in the 12th Annual Wildhorse Resort men’s basketball tournament.
San Francisco State and Portland’s Warner Pacific College are the two “road” teams in this week’s tournament, which is hosted by Whitman College men’s basketball coach Skip Molitor. The tournament features games on the campuses of both Whitman and WWC in College Place.
Tournament action kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday when San Francisco State, an NCAA Div. II team, plays at WWC. The Wolves then host Warner Pacific, an NAIA Div. II squad, at 2 p.m. Friday.
Whitman jumps into the fray at 6 p.m. Friday in Sherwood Center, taking its turn against San Francisco State. The Missionaries return to their home floor to battle Warner Pacific at 6 p.m. Saturday in the tournament finale.
San Francisco State is making its first appearance in the Wildhorse Classic, while Warner Pacific is back after making its initial appearance in December 2002. Walla Walla has been a participant in all but two of the annual tournaments.
A Most Valuable Player Award, as well as an all-tournament team, will be announced following Saturday’s final game.
Here's a brief look at the teams in this week's Wildhorse Classic:
Whitman has stumbled to an 0-4 start, but early season records can be deceiving. The Missionaries have played short-handed in each of their four games, and they held double-digit leads in the second half of two of those contests. Whitman's fourth loss came Tuesday in overtime at Eastern Oregon.
Aaron Hazel, Whitman's 6-foot-5 senior post, missed Whitman's first game on a trip related to his academics, but but he's back and leading the team in both scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.7 rpg). He's also shooting 60 percent from the floor and has four blocked shots in three games.
Sophomore shooting guard Chris Faidley is scoring 15 points per game, while senior point guard Ian Warner is averaging 9.8 points, 5.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and nearly two steals.
Kyle Born, a senior forward who averaged 14.3 points and 9.2 rebounds last season, has been in and out of line-up with foot and ankle problems. After combining 18 points and nine rebounds in the season opener, Born hasn't played since turning an ankle in the first half of game two. Born is expected to play this weekend.
Under second-year head coach Bill Treseler, San Francisco State is 2-3 on the season after dropping its first two California Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCSA) games at home last weekend. The Gators lost 80-64 to Cal State Bakersfield and 82-72 to Cal State Los Angeles.
San Francisco State, which has just one senior on its roster, has three players averaging in double-digit points. Alex Thomas, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, leads the team in scoring at 11.8 points per game while shooting a robust 62.2 percent from the floor. Will Logan, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard, is averaging 11.6 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds, and a third guard, 6-foot junior David Van Someren, is scoring 10.8 points per outing.
Other key players for the Gators include 6-foot-6 junior forward Kajahl Benes (8.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg), 5-foot-11 junior point guard Jamil Muchell (7.6 ppg, 4.6 apg), 6-foot-1 junior guard Dean Wilson (8.0 ppg) and 5-foot-9 junior guard Arcenio Ramirez (7.6 ppg).
The high-scoring Knights of Warner Pacific ran their record to 8-0 Tuesday with an 89-85 victory over Linfield College, one of Whitman’s Northwest Conference rivals. Earlier in the season, Warner Pacific outscored Puget Sound, the NWC defending champion, in a 109-102 slugfest.
Scott O’Gallagher, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, had a huge game for the Knights against Puget Sound, making 15 of 20 shots from the floor and nine of 10 free throws en route to 39 points. He also grabbed a game-high rebounds and handed out six assists. O’Gallagher is averaging 25 points and 5.5 rebounds on the season.
Now in his eighth season as Warner Pacific’s coach, Bart Valentine led the Knights to a 24-9 season and the Cascade Collegiate Conference title last winter. Warner Pacific finished its 2005-06 campaign with a No. 5 national ranking in NAIA Div. II.
Josh Jackson, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, is averaging 17.8. points for the Knights this season. Jalonta Martin, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, is contributing 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Other key players include 6-foot-3 junior forward Keegan Cook (8.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Jeremy Reedal (5.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg).
Coached by Dave Mastin, a four-time All-NWC player at Whitman in the 1980s, Walla Walla College is off to a 2-10 start this season after taking a huge hit to graduation last spring. The Wolves lost four talented starters, including two-time National Christian College Athletic Association First-Team All-American Jeremy Claridge.
Mastin, in his first season with the Wolves, has one major returning weapon in Ryan Wilson, a 6-foot-6 senior post who earned NCCAA Second-Team All-American honors last winter. Wilson already has a handful of double-doubles this season, including a 27-point and 11-rebound effort against the University of Great Falls and an 18-point and 18-rebound performance against Whitworth College.
Clay Cuny, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, gives the Wolves an outside scoring threat. Cuny nailed seven of 15 three-point attempts while scoring 25 points in Walla Walla’s victory over Simpson University in November. Chris Ostos, a 6-foot junior guard, had 17 points in the Simpson and a season-high 18 points against Great Falls.
Other players who have scored in double figures this season include Justin Searns (18 points vs. Northwest Indian College), Britt Balk (17 points vs.Montana Western), Jonny Long (15 points vs. Eastern Oregon), and J.R. Wallace (15 points vs. Montana Tech).
Dave Holden, Whitman Sports Information,
(509) 527-5902; firstname.lastname@example.org