Men’s Basketball Caps Historic Season With Trip to Sweet 16


The Whitman Men’s Basketball team just came off of an incredible season, filled with many firsts. They put together the most wins in the school’s history and received a birth to the DIII national tournament for the first time, making it all the way to the sweet sixteen.

Coach Eric Bridgeland attributes the success to the team’s hard work and dedication.

“The success was our group persevering through several significant adverse challenges,” Bridgeland said. “They collectively refused to make excuses and instead kept improving daily.”

Junior Christian McDonald shared similar sentiments.

Photo by Natalie Mutter

“[The success] was validation for all the work [we] put in,” he said. “[Over] the last two years, Whitman’s Men’s Basketball seasons have been ended in the league playoffs, so it’s really vindication for everyone that we’re doing the right stuff, putting in the right amount of effort, the right amount of time, it’s great to see that pay off and make it to the sweet sixteen.”

One of the team’s other achievements was handing Whitworth, the reigning conference champions for several years, their only two losses of the season. “Whitworth has been on top of this conference for … I don’t know how many years, so it was good to, you know, kind of knock them off and give ‘em their only two losses of the whole season,” said sophomore Tim Howell, a constant force to be reckoned with this season. “It was good to let them know we’re on the uprise, we’re here.”

Alongside the team’s spectacular success came a newfound enthusiasm from the crowd.

“Having that crowd with us, it was just and awesome experience. I’m a part of WhitCity, we’re trying to change the culture with sports here, so just having their support and having them show us love throughout the whole season was awesome, and I hope that continues, and I think it will,” Howell said.

McDonald was also very grateful for the support.

“The crowd becoming a thing was huge. To have a home court advantage? I don’t think many people realize just how much of a competitive boost that is, to have however many screaming fans cheering you on. It gets the adrenaline going, it just elevates every part of your game, I think,” he said.

Bridgeland could feel the same energy from the sideline.

“What that support means? Everything,” he said. “We are representing Whitman, which we all love for so many reasons. To hear the cheers and feel the support from our campus only magnifies that.”

Despite the team’s fantastic play and consistent victories, they were unable to win conference this year. They made it into the tournament with an at-large bid, which is essentially an invitation into the tournament. There are 64 tournament slots and, because DIII basketball is a huge organization, there are 49 conferences. Conference champs get automatic bids, so that leaves only 15 at-large bids. Whitman receiving one was an honor for the team: in the 18 years that Whitman’s conference has been DIII, only 1 or 2 at-large teams have been selected from it, according to Coach Bridgeland.

“We made it in because our guys played a tough schedule and were consistently solid from November to February, with no ‘bad’ losses, and some pretty significant wins,” Bridgeland said.

With a record-breaking season full of highlights behind them—at the end of which they were ranked number seven in the country by—the team is still looking to keep climbing and improve in years to come.

“Next year we plan to go farther. Hang a banner in the gym, that’s my goal. Get that conference championship up there,” Howell said.