Good luck at nationals, Mountaineers

By Observer editorial March 01, 2013 08:58 am

Thanks to great coaches, great players and great fans, La Grande has become an unlikely capital for college basketball.

Both the No. 8-ranked men’s and No. 3-ranked women’s Eastern Oregon University teams have taken the sport to new levels this year. Now they’re off to national tournaments, the women to the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, S.D., and the men to Keeter Gymnasium, College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Mo.

The region is standing up and taking notice. Both women’s and men’s coaches won Cascade Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year. Anji Weissenfluh flew under the radar as the men, directed by Isaac Williams, cruised to a 28-4 record that included sitting on top of the NAIA Division II mountain for five weeks. During that period, EOU held No. 1 and rode a 12-game win streak.

The Mountaineer women are now out of the shadow. And how. They have earned a 31-2 record, and have won 25 straight games. That includes a 17-0 record at home and, more impressively, a 12-0 record on what can be a long and lonely road. The Mountaineers are 2-2 in games on neutral sites. Their last lost occurred Nov. 23 by a 60-59 score to Westminster College of Utah. Their other loss, 62-48, was to Carroll College of Montana. Both Westminster and Carroll are NAIA Division I programs, while EOU plays in NAIA Division II. Westminster was ranked fifth in the latest NAIA Division I poll, and Carroll was ranked 24th.

Being ranked in the top 10 is no easy task. There are 128 teams in NAIA Division II women’s basketball, and 131 teams in NAIA Division II men’s basketball. Congratulations to both the men’s and women’s teams and good luck at nationals.