Conference Champion Vikings Earn Team Of The Week
Western Washington won both the GNAC regular season title and the tournament title with an eight-game winning streak going into the NCAA tournament.
Western Washington won both the GNAC regular season title and the tournament title with an eight-game winning streak going into the NCAA tournament.

Monday, March 6, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Western Washington men’s basketball won the 2017 GNAC Championships over the weekend, defeating Saint Martin’s and Western Oregon to earn this week’s Red Lion/GNAC Team of the Week honor.

The Vikings reached their fourth GNAC Championships Final with a 91-79 semifinal win against No. 4 seed and host Saint Martin’s. The GNAC regular season champion then won the conference tournament for the first time in four tries with a 71-69 triumph over defending champion Western Oregon.

“All year, the guys on the team have been hungry,” Western Washington head coach Tony Dominguez said. “They wanted to succeed and they did what they needed to do. I’m excited for them, because they earned it.”

The victory gave the Vikings an eight-game winning streak and a 25-5 record with an automatic bid into the NCAA West Regional. On Sunday, WWU earned the No. 3 seed in the West Regional and will play No. 6 Chico State in the first round on Friday in La Jolla, Calif.

In the final against Western Oregon, tournament MVP Taylor Stafford scored a team-high 33 points, matching the Wolves’ Demetrius Trammell’s 33 points shot for shot. It was a tight game for all 40 minutes with seven lead changes and neither team ever leading by double digits.

Western Oregon, needing a win to earn a spot in the NCAA Division II tournament, led by four with 2:37 left in the game following a pair of Tanner Omlid free throws. On the next play, Stafford put in a lay-up and was fouled on the way, completing a 3-point play. Two plays later, Deandre Dickson knocked down a jumper to give WWU the lead. Stafford added two more free throws to complete a 7-0 run for a 70-67 lead with 29 seconds left in the game.

Western Oregon’s Ali Faruq-Bey cut the Vikings’ lead to one in the championship game with a lay-up with 10 seconds left. Stafford made a free throw on the other end to push the lead back up to two going into the final possession. The Vikings defended the perimeter well forcing Malik Leaks into a contested 3-pointer as time expired. The potential game-winning shot didn’t fall, giving WWU the GNAC tournament championship to go along with the regular season title.

“I’ve been telling the team all year that in the GNAC anybody can beat anybody so to win both of those titles is a tremendous accomplishment,” Dominguez said. “This is one of the most special teams I’ve been around. This particular group is bound together. They really believe in family. They really want to see everyone succeed.”

In the semifinals, the Vikings picked up their third win this season against Saint Martin’s. Western Washington never trailed in the second half, but the Saints pulled to within three with 3:10 left in the game. That’s when freshman Daulton Hommes took matters into his own hands, scoring eight points during the Vikings’ 10-1 run to grab an 83-71 lead in the final minute of the game. That run proved to be enough to give the Vikings the 91-79 win against SMU.

Stafford finished with 31 points, while Hommes added 20 to go along with 10 rebounds on an 8-for-10 shooting effort for the double-double. Jeffrey Parker tallied 23 points, breaking the WWU all-time scoring record in the process. The senior now ranks eighth in GNAC history in scoring with 1,851 points.

“Being able to set the record just proves that hard work pays off,” Parker said following Friday’s game. “I’m so glad I was able to do it with this group of guys and these coaches that have had my back all season.”

The Vikings will next play at noon on Friday against Chico State, which took third place in the CCAA and reached the conference tournament semifinals. This is the first meeting between the two squads since Western Washington defeated Chico State 74-65 in the 2012 West Regional semifinals, which the Vikings hosted. They went on to win the national championship that year.