SPU, WWU advance to semis

  • By Mike Allende / Herald Writer
  • Friday, March 10, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – The Seattle Pacific men’s basketball team had a will Friday, and because of it, the Falcons found a way into the semifinals of the NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament.

Massive sophomore center Robbie Will had career highs of 29 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks as the Falcons defeated Central Washington 86-76 at Royal Brougham Pavilion on the SPU campus.

The victory sends the host Falcons (23-5), ranked No. 10 in the nation and the top seed in the tournament, into a semifinal matchup at 7 p.m. today against fifth-seeded Cal State Bakersfield (21-7). Bakersfield knocked off fourth seed Sonoma State 71-65 in the quarterfinals.

Central Washington, which handed SPU its only home loss of the season on Feb. 18 and was playing its first playoff game since 2001, ends the season 15-13.

In today’s other semifinal, Chaminade (19-8) plays No. 16 Western Washington (21-6) at 5 p.m. Third-seeded Chaminade defeated sixth-seeded Alaska Anchorage 84-67 and WWU, the second seed, beat seventh-seeded Humboldt State 100-86. Ryan Diggs broke the school record with 47 points in Western’s victory.

Will, a 6-foot-10, 275-pound sophomore from Seattle’s O’Dea High School, won Great Northwest Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year for the impact he made after transferring from Bellevue Community College. Will averaged 11.5 points and led the league in blocks with 54, but nothing came close to his dominance over Central. In fact, his totals Friday were better than his two efforts against the Wildcats during the regular season combined.

“(The guards) did a great job of getting me the ball,” said Will, who shot 12-for-17. “All I had to do was turn around. It’s easy to make shots from two feet.”

Will showed early on that he would have a big impact, blocking four shots and scoring six points in the first 4 minutes, 40 seconds of the game. By halftime, he had 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, and his presence helped hold Central to 31 percent shooting, giving SPU a 37-31 lead. Will said he thought his blocks early on made Central hesitant to attack the basket.

“They kind of backed off a little bit,” Will said. “As the game wore on, at least they had to think about it before they came in.”

“The objective was to get the ball inside to Rob,” SPU coach Jeff Hironaka said. “We didn’t feel like they had an answer for him. …Obviously it paid off tonight.”

Despite Will’s big night, Central was able to stay in the game behind the hot second-half shooting for junior Lance Den Boer.

Den Boer, Central’s leading scorer, was just 2-for-8 for seven points in the first half but was 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and 6-for-8 overall in the second half, scoring 20 points after halftime. He made back-to-back 3-pointers, including one from beyond NBA range, to give Central its first lead of the game at 49-46 with 15:15 to go.

The teams then battled back-and-forth before Lynnwood High graduate Drew Matzen made a 3-pointer as part of a 7-0 SPU spurt to give the Falcons a 67-60 lead. Central rallied to get within 69-68 with 5:24 to go but Will scored six straight points, including a thunderous two-handed slam, as part of a 12-0 run that put the game away for the Falcons.

“I thought when we took the lead, we had a little momentum going,” Central coach Greg Sparling said. “We were making shots and then SPU got hot. They made some key baskets.”

GNAC Player of the Year Tony Binetti, who was battling a cold, had 16 of his 22 points in the second half for SPU. He said the fact that Central had defeated the Falcons recently on their home floor gave his team extra motivation.

“They’re the only team that beat us at home, and it was Senior Night,” Binetti said. “For us seniors and the team as a whole, we wanted this one pretty bad.”

NCAA D-II Women’s West Regional

At Bellingham, Mollie Stelmack scored a season-high 20 points as Western Washington University defeated Northwest Nazarene University 66-54.

Western, the No.1 seed in the region and ranked No.4 in the WBCA/NCAA II Coaches Poll, improved to 27-1 overall and extended their school-record winning streak to 21 games.

Northwest Nazarene, seeded eighth, completed its season 17-11.

Stanwood High School grad Tina Donahue had 19 points for Western, 11 of them in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Western plays Seattle Pacific, a 62-57 victor over UC San Diego, in a semifinal game at 7 p.m. tonight. Cal State Bakersfield, an 82-77 winner over Cal State L.A., plays Chico State in tonight’s other semifinal. Chico State defeated Humboldt State 83-69.

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