Knights' momentum and poise could yield upset on tourney trip
Headed to the NAIA Division II men's basketball tournament for the third consecutive year, Warner Pacific has hit its stride.
'This is the best we've played in three years,' scoring star Scott O'Gallagher says. 'I have a feeling … we're clicking. Best chemistry we've had.'
O'Gallagher says the Knights see themselves as the New York Giants of the NAIA Division II hoop ranks. They are not seeded, while fellow Cascade Conference teams Eastern Oregon (seventh) and Oregon Tech (11th) are. Can they pull off the big upset, à la the Giants against New England in the Super Bowl?
'No question,' says O'Gallagher, who had 31 points in Tuesday's 87-69 win at Evergreen State in the Cascade Conference title game. 'We've always felt, once we got in, it's over.'
The Knights (22-10) play ninth-seeded Bethel, Ind. (27-6), in the first round of the 32-team tournament Wednesday. The tourney runs through March 18 at Branson, Mo.
'We're going in with a lot of momentum,' Warner Pacific coach Bart Valentine says. 'The last two years we haven't had the kind of poise in pressure games that we needed to have.'
Warner Pacific struggled with defense and without 6-6 forward Jeremy Reedal this season. Defense has improved, and Reedal's return from an injury has been the key to better chemistry.
'He's just a smart ballplayer,' O'Gallagher says.