Nobody will argue that home isn't sweet to Ricks College's basketball fortunes.
The Vikings, playing in the nightcap of the Scenic West Athletic Conference semifinals, bounced 14th-ranked and top-seeded College of Southern Idaho from the tournament with a 70-61 victory.Ricks and CSI split the regular-season series, each team winning at home. In Friday night's rubber match, Ricks used a tough defense and a raucous crowd to push into tonight's final, giving the Vikings a chance to advance to the NJCAA tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
"We played the best `D' we have played all year," said Viking coach Clyde Nelson. "You have to against a team like that."
The Golden Eagles shot a woeful 39 percent from the field and let the Vikings beat them on the boards by a 36-23 margin. CSI's leading scorer, Joe Marshall, was 1-of-11 from the field, managing only six points.
"We were tough," Nelson said. "I would like to think that we had something to do with that."
Ricky Bower, brother of BYU's Danny Bower, led the Viking attack with 18 points, while Seth Dahle finished with 10 points and a game-high 13 points.
There is little doubt that playing at home helped the Vikings men's and women's teams, both of which play in today's finals.
"There is no question this is one of the toughest junior college gyms to play in," Nelson said. "With our kids here involved with campus life, we get crowds that other places don't."
The Vikings are tournament hosts by virtue of their women's region crown last season. SWAC rules award hosting of the tournament according to the previous season's champs, alternating genders.
"I have always said the only way we would host this is if they gave it to the women," Nelson said. "I don't mind at all."
Ricks will hope the home court pays off again as the Vikings face Dixie, which also lost in Rexburg during the SWAC regular season.
In the early game of the single-elimination tournament, Dixie managed to survive after squeaking by surprising Snow College 86-85, with Eric Holmes bombing a trey as time expired.
Holmes finished with 18 points, hitting 4-of-7 treys while teammate Khalid Coursey led the Rebels with 19.
Snow - the sixth seed for the tournament - upset third-seeded Salt Lake Community College in the tournament's first round. The Rexburg crowd was anxious to face the Badgers instead of the Rebels, who were ranked fourth in the final NJCAA poll.
The championship game is scheduled tonight at 7 p.m.