Whitman Basketball Keeps Rising

Whitman+Basketball+Keeps+Rising

JAMES BAKER

Conor Scanlon, Sports Reporter

Women’s basketball unstoppable

While many Whitman students take the Winter Break to relax, the women’s basketball team spent their time away from school hard at work maintaining their hot start . The team carried the momentum from their 9-0 start into two more non-conference wins at the 2016 Hoops in Hawaii Classic, which they followed with three straight wins to open Northwest Conference play. The 20th ranked Blues’ only two losses of the season came in a tough overtime game against University of Puget Sound on Jan. 14 and in a spirited road contest against Lewis & Clark College on Jan. 21. This remarkable opening run means that the team is off to their best start since the 2014 NCAA Championship game run.

Head coach Michelle Ferenz attributes the team’s success to its composition of veterans and first years.

“Our returners, led by seniors Alysse Ketner and Chelsi Brewer, are working hard and playing well, and we have some talented newcomers who are really helping,” Ferenz said. “We have 14 good players who work hard and work together everyday, and we are improving quickly because of it.”

Senior captain Alysse Ketner also credits the team’s depth as being a major factor in its success.

“Having such balanced scoring makes us difficult to defend. We have scoring threats from all over the floor,” Ketner said. “If a team takes something away we can easily counter.”

The team has a chance for success in the NCAA Tournament. Ferenz sees many similarities between the current team and the 2014 squad.

“What this team has that the 2014 team had is a real love of the game and a commitment to working hard and working together,” she said. “We don’t have all the experience, but I really like our team dynamic.”

With four of the next five games on the road, the team expects many challenges ahead.

“The shift in intensity is palpable,” Ketner said. “We have seen how good we can be and are hungry to get there.”

Whitman fans can look forward to the team’s next home game on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. against Willamette University.

 

Undefeated men’s basketball rides win streak

Following a NCAA Tournament run to the Sweet Sixteen last spring, the men’s basketball team has surged to a 18-0 record and a number 2 national ranking, its highest in at least eighteen years. Out of conference, the Blues went 2-0 on a late December trip to Daytona Beach, Florida as well as 2-0 in the Whitman-hosted Comfort Inn Classic. After opening on Jan. 6, the men’s team has gone 9-0 so far in Northwest Conference play. Several key factors have contributed to the team’s success this season, but it starts with the team’s attitude.

Only a couple seniors graduated from last year’s team, meaning that many of the team’s core contributors returned for this season. Head coach Eric Bridgeland cites this experience as being extremely valuable.

“We had many returners who played key roles in our NCAA tourney run last year. We have a team full of leaders who care about each other,” Bridgeland said.

In terms of the team’s overall ranking of second in the nation, Bridgeland points to players from the past.

“Rankings usually pay tribute to those before you. We had several classes of great leaders and teammates. They are the ones who paved the way for our group today.”

A high ranking, however, is not the team’s ultimate goal.

“We aren’t a results based program. We look for growth and that if we get better each and every practice and game,” Jase Harrison, a junior transfer and the team’s second leading scorer, said.  “Winning is just an added bonus.”

Much of this growth can be attributed to the team’s spirit.

“We fight as brothers out there on the court and we have each other’s backs. It’s our spirit and what we do versus the other team’s spirit,” Harrison said. “The spirit of this team is greater than any program I’ve ever played for or seen for that matter. We really are one big family.”

Like the women’s team, the men play four of their next five games on the road.

“We are looking forward to exuding it one game at a time,” Bridgeland said. These games have huge implications for the team’s hopeful championship run.

Whitman fans can look forward to the team’s next home game on Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. against Willamette University.