Almost all of the Scenic West Athletic Conference coaches have a big reason to cheer for the SLCC women this week.
The league's tournaments for men and women will be hosted by the school that wins the women's regular-season championship. If held now, the tourney would take place in Twin Falls, Idaho, because the fourth-ranked College of Southern Idaho has a two-game lead on SLCC. Realistically, the Bruins (20-6, 9-2) need to sweep the Golden Eagles (25-1, 11-0) this weekend to keep hope alive.
That's bad news for the rest of the SWAC especially the men.
The Golden Eagle men have the winningest program in NJCAA history. They've represented the SWAC in the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., four straight years. And they pack CSI Gymnasium with about 3,500 rowdy, intimidating fans.
"In reality, we're going where the women send us," said SLCC men's coach Norm Parrish. When it comes to the regular-season title, he added, "We're just playing for a pat on the back."
However, a bonus day-off reward comes with the pat.
"As much as we want to win pride-wise it's really big but it's really important that we take first or second in this league because they get byes," Parrish said. "And that's won the league tournament for a long time. Last year we didn't get a bye and we lost in the championship, so I think it's really important."
Snow hosted the 2007 tournament, but the then-Roger-Reid-coached Badgers were eliminated by SLCC in the semifinals. CSI, the second seed, then won the finals.
SLCC's fifth-ranked men (25-1, 10-1) could overtake the SWAC lead with a sweep of No. 1 CSI (26-0, 11-0) this weekend. Then again, they could still fall to third with two losses this week and two more next weekend against CEU.
LIGHTS OUT: The SLCC men hit 60.6 percent of their shots in the first half Friday night against Colorado Northwestern Community College and then they warmed up.
In the second half of the 107-59 win, the Bruins made 25 of 31 shots for an incredible 80.6 percent. The white-hot half helped SLCC shoot 70.3 percent (45-for-64) for the game. Coach Norm Parrish was almost flabbergasted by his players' shooting accuracy.
"I don't think we can shoot 81 percent on a 5-on-0 drill," he joked.
The Bruins then had to shoot 67.7 percent in the second half of Saturday's 87-77 win to rally from down 25 and prevent an embarrassing loss to CNCC.
SOCK IT TO 'EM: Point guard DaVell Jackson hit 9 of 11 attempts Friday and all but one Bruin shot at least .500, but backup center Marc Van Burck's performance might have been the most impressive. The 6-11 sophomore, who averages only 1.9 points in 5.7 minutes per game, scored 14 points on 6-for-6 shooting.
Parrish chuckled when asked if it was a season-high for Van Burck.
"This might equal his season," he said.
Best part for Van Burck he earned a pair of "sweet socks" from Parrish. The coach gives them out to players who take charge, cause 5-second and shot-clock turnovers, get 10-plus rebounds or assists, and who are perfect from the field with more than five shots.
ALOHA AGAIN: So, how many Hawaii trips have you taken this winter? The Dixie State basketball players are about to take their second weeklong visit to the balmy tropical islands in the past two months. They play at BYU-Hawaii in Laie and at Hawaii Pacific in Honolulu this week.
As far as basketball goes, the Rebels' early January road trip to paradise wasn't much of a vacation for the men. They played like they found Bobby Brady's cursed tiki, losing all three times during a six-game losing skid.
Dixie State's men are playing much better now, despite Saturday's last-second 89-88 loss to Hawaii Hilo. The Rebels, who beat the Vulcans 81-78 Friday, have won five of their past seven games.
The women went 2-1 on their last Hawaii trip, and they just avenged that one loss to Hawaii Hilo this past weekend in 86-62 and 72-70 home wins over the Vulcans.
BIG SKY BLOWOUT: Before Saturday, the Westminster men had lost four games this season by a combined 10 points. Thanks to Montana State-Northern, it's now five by a total of 24 points. The Griffins only made 7 of 25 shots in the second half and saw a three-point halftime lead fizzle into an 80-66 road loss to the Lights.
DISHING IT OUT: Shannon Evans became the Westminster women's all-time assists leader on Friday. The junior guard's assist to Janae Hirschi in the first half of the Griffins' overtime win at Great Falls (Mont.) gave her 403 in her career, surpassing Amy Jensen's record 402.
Evans finished with five assists and 20 points in that game. She added four more assists in Saturday's 49-47 squeaker over Montana State-Northern to up the new school record to 410 assists.
Evans is also just 14 steals away from breaking Westminster's career steals record of 216.NATIONAL SCENE: After reaching a program-best ranking of No. 8, the Westminster men slipped back down to 15th. The Griffins will likely fall again after Saturday's loss ... Westminster's women, which moved from 24th to 23rd, could keep climbing after two wins this weekend ... SLCC's men remained at No. 5 in the NJCAA ... CEU's Kal Bay held onto his national No. 1 ranking in free throws at 94 percent (47-50) ... Westminster's Danny Reeder continues to lead the NAIA in assists with his 7.16 average ... SLCC's men are listed as No. 2 in team defense on the NJCAA Web site, but their coaches claim they actually do have the best points-allowed average in the country at 52.96.
This week's games
(Women's times listed first)
Dixie State at BYU-Hawaii, 9:30 p.m./11:30 p.m.
Montana Western at Westminster, 5:30 p.m./7:30 p.m.
CEU at Snow, 5:30 p.m./7:30 p.m.
SLCC at Southern Idaho, 5:30 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Dixie State at Hawaii Pacific, 9:30 p.m./11:30 p.m.
CEU at Snow, 1 p.m./3 p.m.
SLCC at Southern Idaho, 1 p.m./3 p.m.
Montana Tech at Westminster, 5:30 p.m./7:30 p.m.
Dixie State at Hawaii Pacific, 9:30 p.m./11:30 p.m.
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