Goiní to the National Championships

By Chris Baxter, The Observer March 01, 2013 09:19 am

Jorie Freeman will try to improve on the teamís 31-2 record in Sioux City, Iowa.
Jorie Freeman will try to improve on the teamís 31-2 record in Sioux City, Iowa.
J.D. Esters and his teammates head to Point Lookout for NAIA tournament
J.D. Esters and his teammates head to Point Lookout for NAIA tournament

Women travel to Sioux City as one of NAIA’S top-seeds / Men earn berth in Missouri tournament, face Midland 

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — With a Cascade Conference crown firmly in their grasp, the Eastern Oregon University women’s basketball team will start a quest for an even bigger crown Thursday when they play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division 2 championship tournament.

The Mountaineers will face off with Southwestern (Kansas) College in the opening round of the national tournament. EOU earned one of four No. 1 seeds, while the Lady Builders are the No. 8 seed in the third quadrant of the bracket.

Eastern Oregon will be bringing a record-breaking 31-2 mark with them to the championship tournament.

Even more important, the team is riding a 25-game winning streak.

The last time the ladies from Eastern lost was to one of the top programs in the larger NAIA Division 1. In November, the Mountaineers dropped a one-point game to the Westminster (Utah) Griffins. 

Southwestern (23-7) will be making its fifth trip to Sioux City and their third trip in as many years. The Lady Builders are 1-4 all-time in the national tournament and dropped a 69-67 decision to Mount Mercy in last year’s opening- round contest.

The team is returning to the site where a year ago the then-unheralded Mountaineers managed to pull off two upsets to reach the quarterfinals, something no team had done in the history of the EOU women’s program.

Eastern Oregon eventually lost to The College of the Ozarks, 74-55.

But coach Anji Weissenfluh, then coaching in her 12th season, had watched her team take an at-large berth and make a run.

She may need track shoes next week.

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POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. — After a five-week stint as the NAIA Division 2’s No. 1 basketball team, the No. 8-ranked Eastern Oregon University men’s basketball team earned a spot among the final 32 teams invited to the national championship tournament, which starts Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. PST.

The Mountaineers will face off with Midland (Nebraska) in the first round.

The trip to the national stage will be Midland’s first since 2000 and just the third in the program’s history. The Warriors earn the bid after mounting a 19-12 season, including three victories over nationally ranked opponents. They also head into the tournament ranked No. 25 nationally.

The Mountaineers will be entering the tournament with a 28-4 record.

From Jan. 8 through Feb. 5, the Mountaineers were atop the Division 2 standings. It was the first time in school history the team had been ranked No. 1.

EOU is led in scoring by senior Trent Roos, who is putting up 13.4 points per game. Seniors Jason Mumm and Anthony Brown are both averaging 11.5 points per outing.

James Parrott, a 6-foot-2 guard, is leading Midland in scoring at 19.1 points per game. Ben Imig is scoring 12.6 points per game, while Jerome Vaughn is putting up 10.9 points and Galen Gullie is averaging 10.2.

The Warriors have lost two of their last three games — all against ranked opponents — after winning three straight. 

The Mountaineers had a five-week run at No. 1 in the national poll but have dropped three of their past five games.

Two of those losses were on last-second lay-ins, and Williams said he isn’t worried about his team’s play heading into the national tournament.

Coach Isaac Williams got his team off to a 15-0 start in November and Decmber before Cascade Conference rival Southern Oregon University handed EOU a 72-68 loss on the road.

Then the Mountaineers rolled off another 12 wins to improve to 27-1.

College of Idaho came to Quinn Coliseum Feb. 8 to hand the Mounties a one-point loss and a week later, Warner Pacific forced themselves into a tie for the lead in the Cascade Conference race with two-point victory in Portland.

In the Cascade tournament, the Mounties ended the season for the defending national champions with a 77-75 win over Oregon Institute of Technology.

In the semis, Southern Oregon University handed EOU its fourth loss of the season  (89-71) and claimed one of  Cascade’s two automatic berths to the NAIA national tournament.