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Division II Basketball Showcase To Feature 3 GNAC Schools
The doubleheader marks the first time since 2015-16 that the GNAC has been featured in the Division II Basketball Showcase.
The doubleheader marks the first time since 2015-16 that the GNAC has been featured in the Division II Basketball Showcase.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two of the GNAC’s top basketball rivalries will be featured in front of a national audience this winter as part of the NCAA Division II Basketball Showcase, which was announced on Oct. 5 by the NCAA headquarters.

The Feb. 1 games at Central Washington comprise one of 14 doubleheaders that will be streamed live this season on ESPN3. The Wildcats’ women will host Seattle Pacific in the opener at 5:15 p.m. Central Washington’s men will host Western Washington in the nightcap at 7:30 p.m.

The selection of the doubleheader marks the first time since 2015-16 that the GNAC will be featured as part of the showcase. The package aired the GNAC Basketball Championships in March 2016.

“We are excited and honored that Central Washington has been chosen to host this doubleheader by the NCAA,” said Central Washington athletic director Dennis Francois. “The Division II Basketball Showcase is a great opportunity to highlight what is arguably the biggest rivalry in GNAC men’s basketball, our student-athletes and the CWU brand.”

The women’s contest will feature a pair of squads that hope to be battling for return trips to the GNAC Championships. Seattle Pacific finished at 19-11 overall last year and tied for fourth place in the GNAC at 10-10. The Falcons beat Northwest Nazarene in the conference quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion Alaska Anchorage in the semifinals. The Falcons return 12 players and four starters from last year, led by Honorable Mention All-GNAC selections Courtney Hollander and Jordan McPhee.

Central Washington finished at 15-15 overall last year, tying for sixth at 9-11 to advance to the GNAC Championships. There the Wildcats upset No. 3 seed Simon Fraser before falling in the semifinals to Western Washington. Central returns 14 players and four starters, led by Second Team All-GNAC selections Jasmin Edwards and Taylor Baird. They will also be adjusting to life under first-year head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley, herself a former SPU assistant coach.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Seattle Pacific head coach Julie Heisey. “Central has a really good team. Some of their kids who were hurt last year are healthy, so they should have a really good season. Our team will be experienced, so our fans will have a chance to see two of the best teams in the West Region.”

Richardson-Thornley emphasizes the rivalry between the two women’s teams. “Two-thirds of our staff have either played or coached for SPU, so this game will be important on many levels,” she said. “It may not be the rivalry that the men’s game will feature, but we expect a big crowd and our players will be fired up to go out and compete.”

The men’s game features the always fierce rivalry between Central Washington and Western Washington, a matchup that has aired on regional or national television annually for last few years. The Vikings are the defending GNAC champions, finishing 2016-17 with a 25-6 overall record and a 17-3 conference mark. Western Washington advanced to the NCAA West Regional, losing in the quarterfinals to eventual regional champion Chico State. Eight total players and four starters return for WWU, led by Honorable Mention All-GNAC forward Daulton Hommes and guards Trey Dreschel and Blake Fernandez.

Central Washington is looking to make a return to the GNAC Championships after just missing the tournament last year. The Wildcats finished 2016-17 with a 14-12 overall record and tied for seventh in the league at 9-11. The Wildcats return nine total players and three starters from last year’s squad, including Honorable Mention All-GNAC center Fuquan Niles and guard Naim Ladd.

“We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to play a game on ESPN3 and the national stage,” said Western Washington head coach Tony Dominguez. “As a program we are constantly striving to grow and to improve and we view this as another moment where it allows us to grow and compete in front of a national audience.”

“The Central/Western rivalry has a rich history and is always an intense and entertaining game,” said CWU head coach Greg Sparling. “We have had multiple buzzer beaters in the past five years and we are fortunate to expose this matchup to the rest of the country.”

A total of 14 of the 24 basketball-sponsoring conferences in Division II are featured in this year’s Division II Basketball Showcase. An additional four flex doubleheaders in February and March will be announced at a later date. The showcase starts on Sat., Nov. 18, with Humboldt State hosting Chico State.

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