Patterson: Welcome to the golden age of EvCC hoops

Both the men and women are in position to make the NWAC Championships for just the 3rd time in school history.

It was a big night at the Walt Price Fitness Center last Saturday.

First, the Everett Community College women’s basketball team rode a 31-point night from sophomore forward Uju Chibuogwu to defeat the Peninsula Pirates 73-64.

Immediately afterwards the Trojans men rallied in the second half to post an 87-84 victory over Peninsula.

When the thrilling evening of basketball action was complete, both the Everett women and men found themselves in sole possession of first place in the Northwest Athletic Conference’s North Region.

Welcome to the golden age of Everett CC hoops.

Less than two weeks remain in NWAC’s regular season, and never before has Trojan basketball found itself reaching the heights it’s currently achieving.

“It’s definitely exciting for us,” Everett athletic director Garet Studer said. “It’s really fun to watch and be a part of.”

Going into Saturday’s doubleheader at Edmonds, the Everett men, led by the backcourt duo of sophomore Gio Jackson (17.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game) and Markieth Brown Jr. (18.5 points per game, reigning NWAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week), were riding a nine-game winning streak, reaching 9-1 in regional play and 21-4 overall. Not only were the Trojans the top-ranked team in the NWAC coaches poll — the first time in school history Everett climbed to the top of the rankings — they were three games up in the North Region with four games to play, having already clinched a berth to the NWAC Championships.

Everett’s women, following Wednesday’s 70-60 setback at Bellevue, were tied with Bellevue for first in the North Region at 7-2 and 18-5 overall. The Trojans, paced by Chibuogwu (19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds) and sophomore forward Alexis Biggerstaff (16.7 points per game), are ranked No. 6 in the NWAC coaches poll and all but assured a second straight trip to the NWAC Championships.

Is this the best combination of basketball teams in school history? Everett women’s coach Chet Hovde has been around since the women’s program began in 1978, so he’d know better than anyone. When asked whether this was the best combined season the Trojans have ever had, he didn’t hesitate:

“It is,” Hovde said. “I’ve been here 40 years and the two teams are the best I’ve ever seen it.”

Indeed, Everett has never come close to what it’s accomplishing this season.

Just twice in school history have both the Trojan men and women qualified for the NWAC Championships in the same season. In 1981-82 the women (8-2, 21-7) finished second in the region and took second at the tournament, while the men (8-4, 12-15) finished third in the region and advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament. Then in 2007-08 Everett’s women (14-2, 23-9) won the region and finished eighth at the tournament, while the men (12-4, 22-10) were fourth in the region and also took eighth at the tourney.

So what the Trojans are doing this season, with the potential for both teams to finish first in the region, is special.

“The atmosphere is really fun,” Everett men’s coach Mike Trautman said. “The women’s and men’s teams get along really well, they’re always high-fiving each other. There’s a new energy in the building, and that’s a good thing.”

That energy is beginning to spread beyond the gym. Studer said the buzz has begun circulating around campus, with members of the administration and faculty starting to attend games and talk about the teams.

“I don’t think this will be a one-and-done type of thing,” Studer said. “I think we’ll be able to build off this for future years. I know both coaches are having success on the recruiting trail. I’m not saying we didn’t get attention from players before, but it certainly makes recruiting easier when you’re having winning seasons. It’s nice being in the mix for those highly-recruited athletes where before we wouldn’t necessarily get the time of day.

“Of course the old adage is to take it one game at a time, and everyone is enjoying the season for what it is and living in the moment. But I think our outlook is good.”

The Trojans get the chance to put an exclamation point on their season at home, as this years’ NWAC Championships take place at the Walt Price Fitness Center, with the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight taking place March 8-11 and the Final Four following on March 17-18.

Neither Everett team has ever claimed an NWAC title. The men have to go back to 1959, when the Trojans were a part of the Washington State Junior College Athletic Conference, for their last championship.

But with this being the golden age of Everett CC basketball, it may just be the year the long wait for the big trophy comes to an end.

Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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