Nighthawks, Falcons Battle With Playoff Implications
Seattle Pacific guard Divant'e Moffitt leads his team in scoring with an average of 18.5 points per game.
Seattle Pacific guard Divant'e Moffitt leads his team in scoring with an average of 18.5 points per game.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

PORTLAND, Ore. – With two weeks left before Selection Sunday, the race to make a case for the Division II postseason is hitting high gear. And the teams at the top of the list for the GNAC square off this weekend.

Northwest Nazarene and Seattle Pacific are vying for one of the West Region’s six playoff spots. The Nighthawks have been listed among the teams “under consideration” in the first two NCAA Division II West Region rankings of the season. The third and final ranking prior to selection, the first ranked list released by the committee, will be released next Wednesday.

The games on Friday and Saturday will be the only matchups of the season between the defending GNAC regular-season champions Falcons, who enter with a 7-3 record, and the Nighthawks (10-1), who are ranked No. 13 in the NABC Division II Coaches Poll and No. 15 in the D2SIDA Media Poll.

Both teams have fared well against other GNAC teams this season. The Nighthawks are 4-0 this season against the conference with all four of those games against Saint Martin’s The Falcons are the 5-1 against the GNAC with the lone loss coming against Saint Martin’s on Feb. 12.

TALE OF THE TAPE: Both the Nighthawks and Falcons enter the weekend with plenty of offensive firepower. Seattle Pacific is averaging 79.6 points per game while Northwest Nazarene is averaging 79.4 points per contest.

The Falcons hold the edge from the field, shooting 47.2 percent to the Nighthawks’ 45.9 percent. Seattle Pacific leads Division II in free throw shooting at 84.9 percent while averaging 3.5 blocks and 6.6 steals per game.

Junior guard Divant’e Moffitt leads Seattle Pacific offensively, averaging 17.6 points per game to go along with 52 assists. Senior guard Harry Cavell gets it done on both ends of the floor, averaging 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Of the 12 SPU players to see action this season, six are shooting over 80 percent from the free throw line.

While Seattle Pacific holds the edge inside offensively, Northwest Nazarene holds it outside. The Nighthawks are shooting 37.7 percent from three-point range against SPU’s 36.2 percent. Defensively, Northwest Nazarene is averaging 39.2 rebounds per game, nearly six more per contest than the Falcons.

Senior guard Ezekiel Alley has been named the GNAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week four times this season. He leads the Nighthawks with 18.5 points per game while shooting 46.5 percent from the field and 45.1 percent from beyond the arc. Sophomore guard George Reidy is averaging 13.3 points per game while sophomore forward James Nelson is averaging a team-leading 5.8 rebounds per contest.

IN THE RANKINGS: Northwest Nazarene continues to hold steady in both national polls. The Nighthawks climbed four spots in this week’s NABC Division II Men’s Basketball Rankings, entering the week at No. 14, but dropped one spot to No. 15 in this week’s D2SIDA Media Poll.

In the second Division II West Region Rankings, released on Wednesday, the Nighthawks continued to be the only GNAC team listed “under consideration” for a postseason berth. Northwest Nazarene is joined in the rankings by Adams State (8-7), Biola (6-3), Colorado Mesa (16-1), Colorado Mines (13-1), Fresno Pacific (5-1), Hawaii Hilo (7-1) and Point Loma (6-1).

Beginning this year, the first two regional rankings provided by the regional advisory committee do not list teams by their rank but rather as an alphabetical list of teams “under consideration” for postseason selection. The third week will feature an actual ranking of eight teams. The NCAA will announce the six teams selected for the postseason from each region on Sunday, March 7.

The NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship will begin with regional rounds commencing on Friday, March 12. The West Regional will be held at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.

Due to the reduced number of teams competing in the West Region due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the region is comprised for the 2020-21 season of teams from the GNAC, PacWest Conference and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

WILDCATS BACK AT IT: After a long wait due to COVID restrictions, Central Washington is back on the court for a six-game schedule.

The Wildcats lost both ends of a home-and-home series with Seattle Pacific last weekend. Central took a competitive 86-82 loss in Ellensburg on Friday with the Wildcats shooting an impressive 52.5 percent from the field. Senior guard David Thompson led the way with 29 points on 11 of 20 from the field. Junior forward Matt Poquette finished with 20 points while shooting a perfect 8 of 8 from the field and 4 of 4 from the free throw line.

In Saturday’s 92-74 loss in Seattle, Thompson led four CWU players in double figures with 20 points. Senior guard Xavier Smith added 19 points on 7 of 12 from the field.

The Saturday contest provided for an unusual look in athletics aesthetics as Central Washington wore Seattle Pacific’s maroon away uniforms. The Falcons lent the Wildcats the jerseys after CWU accidentally left their road uniforms in Ellensburg (thankfully the two school’s color schemes are similar).

All six of Central Washington’s games will be against GNAC opponents. The Wildcats will play a home-and-home series with Saint Martin’s on Friday and Saturday before ending the year by hosting Northwest Nazarene on Mar. 5 and 6.

SAINTS NEARING FINISH LINE: It has been a season of growth for Saint Martin’s with second-year coach Aaron Landon using the season to hone a relatively young lineup.

The Saints enter the weekend series with Central Washington with a 1-8 record. The team’s lone win came on Feb. 12 in an 80-66 victory at Seattle Pacific. Since that time, the Saints took two losses at Northwest Nazarene. The Saints fell 92-86 last Friday and 71-53 on Saturday.

Sophomore guard Alex Schumacher was named the GNAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week on Feb. 15 for his heroics in the SPU win. Schumacher finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals in the victory as he connected on 6 of 13 from the field and 3 of 7 from three-point range. He leads SMU in scoring with an average of 14.7 points per game.

RIGHT UP HIS ALLEY: Moving into a starting role after playing the sixth man last year has suited Northwest Nazarene senior guard Ezekiel Alley quite well. Alley enters the weekend series with Seattle Pacific as the reigning GNAC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week, earning the award for the fourth time this season.

Alley averaged 18.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in a home sweep of Saint Martin’s. He led all scorers with 26 points in Friday’s 92-86 win, connecting on 8 of 14 from the field and 5 of 9 from three-point range to go with five rebounds and four assists. Alley then scored 11 points with six rebounds and two assists in Saturday’s 71-53 victory.

Alley enters the week averaging 18.5 points per game and ranks 23rd in Division II with a .451 three-point percentage. He also ranks 32nd nationally with 2.91 three-pointers made per game.

I’M JUST WILD ABOUT HARRY: The conference’s other top senior is a threat on both ends of the floor. Seattle Pacific senior guard Harry Cavell has set the pace for the Falcons with his averages of 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He is one of just three GNAC players to rank in the conference’s top-10 in both scoring (fourth) and rebounding (first).

Cavell ranks in the Division II top-100 in rebounding and enters the week ranked 50th with 6.30 defensive rebounds per game.

Cavell was named the GNAC Player of the Week of Feb. 1 after he averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds in the Falcons’ two wins over Lewis-Clark State. Cavell eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau with a 30-point, 11-rebound effort in the Jan. 27 82-65 victory. He connected on 11 of 16 from the field, 4 of 6 from three-point range and 4 of 4 from the free throw line to go with two blocks and three assists. Cavell added a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Jan. 28 82-79 overtime win.

In the Falcons’ 10 games this season, Cavell has notched double-doubles in three of them and scored 15 or more points on five occasions.