by Matt Benoit
The Whatcom men’s and women’s basketball seasons came to very different conclusions this year. While the Orca men vied for postseason glory at the NWAACC Championship Tournament, the Orca women failed to make it to the postseason and finished the year with their worst record in the last six seasons.
At the NWAACC Championship Tournament, held March 6 through 9 in Kennewick, Washington, Whatcom entered as the North Region’s second seed, playing their first game at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night against Pierce College. Tied at the half, the Orcas outscored Pierce by seven in the second half, defeating the Pirates by a final score of 66 to 59. Jason Brown led Whatcom with 14 points scored.
The next day, the Orcas were handed their first loss in a tight game, losing toYakima Valley by a final score of 60 to 56. Trailing by three points at the end of the first half, Whatcom was only outscored by an additional point in the second half, and held a two-point lead going into the final minute of the game before Yakima’s Willie Blodgett sunk a three-pointer, giving the Yaks a lead they would not relinquish.
Connor Oldham led Whatcom with 10 points scored. With the loss, the Orcas were forced from the winner’s bracket into the consolation bracket. Whatcom concluded their season with a Mar. 8 matchup against Walla Walla, losing 59 to 56.
The Orca men’s team finished the regular season with a league record of 11-5, tying Bellevue Community College for second place in the NWAACC’s North Region standings. Whatcom ended the season by winning 9 of their final 11 games, including a mid-season streak of seven wins in-a-row.
Head coach Chris Scrimsher said in an e-mail that he was pleased with the team’s overall performance throughout the season, but never comfortable.
“We know we can always improve, and we strive to get better each day,” Scrimsher said. “It’s about peaking at the ‘right’ time and I think we’re getting closer to accomplishing that.”
Scrimsher said he expects to have a good core of returning players next season. “I’m excited about their potential,” he said.
Three players—Paul Jones, Matt Peterson, and Elon Langston—were given all-star honors. Jones was voted to the first team of North Region all-stars, while Peterson and Langston will represent Whatcom in the Sophomore All-Star game, to be held March 14 at Pierce College.
The Whatcom women’s basketball team struggled to find consistency after a head coaching change this season, losing their last three games in-a-row and finishing sixth in the North Region standings with a 7-9 record in league play.
Head coach Piper Nims was released from her contract with the team on Jan. 21, and Becky Rawlings, who had served as head coach of the team for first 11 years of the program, was named interim coach.
“It was challenging,” said Rawlings in an e-mail. “I had just five weeks with them and the teams we were playing had about four months to prepare.” Still, she said her team did a great job of responding to the changes the coaching move brought.
“I was really impressed with their athletic talent and their team camaraderie.”
Rawlings said she will probably only be back with the team as a fan. “I’ve done my coaching stint and it’s time for someone else to have an opportunity,” she said, adding that the recruiting process for a new coach is well on its way with several qualified candidates being looked at.
Even though the team missed the playoffs by one game, their season-ending losses came against the first and second-place teams in the North Region, and were by only three points a piece.
“It’s hard not to think of what this team would have been if I had coached them the whole season,” Rawlings said. “I can honestly say that they were probably one of the most athletically talented teams that I have seen come through WCC.”
As for next season, Rawlings said nine first-year players are expected to return.
In the end, Rawlings said the biggest highlight was the way the team handled adversity throughout the season.
“I truly believe that we were one of the top four teams in our league,” she said. “We just had a large hole to dig ourselves out of.”