by Quinn Welsch
Despite an excellent season for the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Whatcom Community College, both have been ejected from the North West Athletic Association of Community College’s tournament after the second day of games.
The men’s team, who won a number one spot in the tournament, and were top ranked in the NWAACC, lost to South Western Oregon Community College, of Coos Bay, Oregon, 75-71 on March 3, and to Lower Columbia College, from Longview, Washington, on March 4. Their overall record for the season was 15-1, an all time high.
The women’s team was clinched in the playoffs, but lost to Chemeketa Community College from Salem, Oregon, 58-41, on March 3, and to Centralia College, 55-52 on March 4. Their overall record for the season was 11-6.
Both men’s and women’s teams have had an outstanding turnout this season.
The NWACC’s official website describes Whatcom’s men’s loss as a stun to the team’s overall success. The website reports that Whatcom led the game from the beginning and finished the first half with a 12 point lead. With 10:25 in the second half, SW Oregon turned the tables with a steal and a score from Oregon’s Marcus Monroe, followed shortly by two three-pointers from the team’s Riley Grandinetti, with Whatcom barely ahead, 60-57. With about a minute left in the game, SW Oregon led 74-71. Whatcom missed a three point shot at the buzzer.
The loss was what stopped the steam roller that was the Whatcom men’s team. Before the tournament, the team’s last loss was on January 28.
Men’s head coach Chris Scrimsher said it’s their goal to be ranked in the NWAACC’s top four each season. Scrimsher said their success is due to an extraordinary amount of effort put into sport and community. He says the team has not made any large changes in practice from last season, but developed a core of leadership amidst the players. Guards Will Perry, Pat Vouet, Evan Coulter, and Derek Dickerson have been major contributors to the game. Scrimsher says power forward Marcus Bagnerise has also been a factor in the Orca’s success this season.
“Their experience directed the team this season,” Scrimsher said, adding that the team overall has been an outstanding one. “No one person is more important than the next.”
Chris Tanis, 19, a power forward standing at 6’7”, said the team prides itself on their defense, but even more so on their simplicity.
“We work to be as balanced as we can on defense and offense,” said Tanis.
“We definitely have an offensive talent,” said 18-year-old point guard Caleb Buchanan. “We play smart.” Both players say that Coach Scrimsher keeps the team’s drills simplistic.
“We don’t need to do anything extravagant to get the job done,” said Buchanan.
Simplicity is key for Orca’s basketball. The women’s team also plays a simplistic game.
“A lot of our practices are about getting down and dirty on our defense,” said head coach Sarah Bergner.
The women finished three in their division. It is the second year in a row that coach Bergner has taken the women to the playoffs – and her second year at Whatcom.
Bergner said the team was primarily a freshman team this season, but that she was pleased to see many of them stepping up on the court.
Seattle’s head coach, Rebecca Valdivia, said the Orcas had some major advantages over other teams this season. Valdivia says the women’s team is a much taller team than them, but that they are also a highly athletic team.
“They work really hard, and they execute. That’s a playoff team,” said Valdivia.
Besides turning heads on the court, the men’s and women’s team have made contributions to the community by visiting children at Shuksan Middle School. Bagnerise said it was the first time the basketball teams had done anything like that. The men’s and women’s teams also reached out to students in the area by hosting a Big Brothers Big Sisters event on campus.
Despite two games a week, practices in between each game, being on the road, working jobs, and doing homework, the teams have both managed to come out on top this season.
“It’s a grind sometimes, but you gotta do it,” said 19-year-old power forward Zach Stalin.
“They continue to work hard,” said Scrimsher, “They’ve been going strong since October.”
“This is a very special team that only comes around once in a while,” said Scrimsher. “They’re a fun group to watch and it’s been a pleasure to coach them. They’ve been great representatives of Whatcom Community College.”
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