Warner Pacific coach Bart Valentine says the Knights have achieved their goal of playing in a national tournament in his third year as coach. Unfortunately, it won't be the NAIA Division II nationals.
The high-scoring Knights (18-15) will travel to Boiling Springs, N.C., for the National Christian College Athletic Association men's tournament March 14-16, the 'second option' for the Knights, Valentine says.
'The winner of the tournament will be, most likely, a better team than the winner of the NAIA tournament,' he says. 'It's not a weak tournament.
'It's a lot of fun. We're going to play at least two games. We're really excited.'
Warner Pacific finished 10-8 in the Cascade Conference, then lost its playoff game to Oregon Tech. But because fellow Christian school Western Baptist advanced to the NAIA nationals, the Knights needed only to beat Walla Walla College in a qualifying game to represent the Northwest in the eight-team NCCAA tournament.
'We caught a break there,' says Valentine, whose team beat Walla Walla 109-88.
Gardner Webb will be the favorite because it's an NCAA Division I school, the tournament host and 19-8 this season. NCAA Division II and NAIA Division I schools also are in the tourney.
The Knights will play Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio), a NAIA Division II team with a 20-11 record, in the first round.
'Our NAIA conference is very strong. I don't think we'll be out of our league,' Valentine says.
Warner Pacific averages 75.9 points and gives up 72.7. Its best attribute: 3-point shooting, leading the Cascade Conference at .393. Point guard Demarcus Best (.487) topped the league, and Nick Hudson (.434) and Andrew Twiss (.422) also ranked high.
The 6-5 Twiss, from Vancouver, Wash., led the Knights in scoring (18.2) and rebounding (7.1) and complemented forward Matt Segrin.
Valentine loses one senior, Adam Decker, to graduation. 'We'll have to replace him and find some size to help us out,' the coach says.
Ask NCAA Division I players about their goals, and nearly everyone says, 'NBA.' The players at Lewis & Clark, who are in Wisconsin for the NCAA Division III regional final, are more realistic.
Scott Davis, the school's second-leading all-time scorer, hardly picks up a basketball in the off-season. Asked whether he plans to pursue a pro career in Europe, the athletic 6-5 Davis says, 'I have to sit down with my coach and see whether I want to try out here or overseas. I'd love to take a try at it.'
He has never dreamed of playing in the NBA, though.
'My dream is to wakeboard my whole life,' says Davis, a business-economics major.
Junior forward Colin Oriard wants to use his Hispanics studies major and study and play abroad.
Oriard's father, Bob, played in the NFL for five years, but his 6-8, 240-pound son never seriously considered making football his sport.
'Every year since seventh grade, everywhere I've went, they've asked me to play,' he says. 'I've been in love with basketball since I can remember. I spent a ridiculous number of days in my driveway playing like Reggie Miller.'
Lewis & Clark will play Wisconsin-Oshkosh tonight in the third round of the NCAA Division III tournament. If the Pioneers win, they will face Carthage or Gustavus Adolphus on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.