On the court, the Pilots' home season did end in a loss to St. Mary's. The Gaels showed why they are nationally ranked and no worse than WCC regular season co-champions, outright champions if they win Saturday. The score of 70-43 was as bad as it looked. The Gaels were more athletic and quicker than the Pilots. They were able to score inside and make outside shots, while Portland really didn't have many easy chances against a tough defense.
Portland now has one road game left in what has been a very long regular season. A shortage of experienced players at nearly every position will lead to a lot of losses. Hopefully the promising freshmen can take the lessons of this season and apply them in the years to come, earning more victories in the future.
Despite the disappointment on the court, there were some positives off the court. During one of the timeouts, the Pilot Club, the university's group of athletics boosters, honored UP senior and 800 Games Project contributor Steven Langston with a complimentary membership for next year in appreciation of his support over the years. Steven is a modest guy who doesn't seek attention and is probably going to be slightly embarrassed by my writing about him, but he deserves to be praised. He goes to just about every competition he can on campus. I've seen him at most every soccer and basketball game, but he also attends lots of volleyball matches, a few baseball games, and even some tennis. In his time as a student, his dedication to following the Pilots has been tireless. He doesn't do it for the attention but I was glad to see the athletic department recognize him.
The other group it didn't end in a loss for was the one I'm a part of, the Purple Pride Pep Band. "The band always wins!" my friend, former director, and trumpet teacher Phil Cansler was fond of saying, and this game was no exception. Phil was one of the first things I noticed when I started going to Pilot games as a kid. After all, he wore a purple wig and was fond of dancing in front of the band and riding his trumpet around the stands when he got really fired up. When I enrolled at Portland as a freshman in 1999, I found that his enthusiasm and positive encouragement extended to concert band as well. He kept us feeling good about our music and brought out the best in the band. But he also taught us how to conduct ourselves like professional musicians. If you had private lessons with him, you'd learn it was not only important to practice, but practice the right way. You'd also have discussions about current events, philosophy, religion, whatever was on his mind. He traveled the world giving recitals with his wife, an organist, and had countless stories about where he'd been and what he'd seen. He really was one of the most remarkable people I've known.
Sadly, I'm writing this in the past tense. Phil is gone now, taken by a brain tumor in 2008. As I write this I can't believe it's about to be four years since he passed away. There are a handful of us alumni who played for him and are still in the pep band. We're all friends with each other and we all have the same fond memories of Phil. We all went through tough basketball seasons like the one that's now in its final stages. Through every game, win or lose, blowout or one-point thriller, Phil managed to keep a smile on his face. I've been frustrated many times in the past few months. When I get down I try to think of Phil and how he would have smiled a little brighter and danced a little crazier. Then I think about how our band is still the best in the conference (it's not just Pilot fans who say this). I think about coach Eric Reveno, a wonderful teacher who I still believe is taking Pilot basketball in the right direction. I think about how Portland's athletic department does things the "right" way, supporting the university's mission of producing excellent citizens who will go on to make the world better. Then I know things aren't so bad, that playing music is fun when you're with your friends. Phil's passing may have been a tremendous loss, but as long as those of us who knew him live the way he did, we won't take losing games so hard.
I found the top photo hanging in the hallway of the university's athletic offices. I happened upon the bottom one in the Winter 2011 issue of the university's Portland Magazine. Yes, that's a purple trumpet and a purple suit. He also had a purple car.
SAINT MARY'S 70, at PORTLAND 43 02/23/2012
SAINT MARY'S 24-5 (13-2) -- R. Jones 6-12 0-1 12; C. Steindl 4-6 4-4 15; M. Dellavedova 3-8 6-6 12; J. Page 1-4 4-4 6; M. Young 4-6 2-5 10; B. Levesque 3-7 3-4 10; B. Waldow 1-3 0-0 2; K. Walker II 1-1 1-1 3; T. Williams 0-0 0-0 0; K. Rowley 0-0 0-0 0; Z. Sanchez 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-47 20-25 70. PORTLAND 6-22 (3-12) -- R. Nicholas 3-8 0-1 7; T. van der Mars 0-3 0-0 0; N. Mitrovic 4-7 3-3 14; K. Bailey 3-7 1-2 8; D. Carr 2-6 0-0 4; T. Riley 1-7 0-0 3; D. Cason 2-4 1-2 5; T. Douglas 0-3 0-0 0; E. Waterford 1-3 0-0 2; J. Bailey 0-2 0-0 0; D. Rodgers 0-0 0-0 0; K. Thieleke 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-50 5-8 43.
Three-point goals: SMC 4-13 (R. Jones 0-3; C. Steindl 3-5; M. Dellavedova 0-2; B. Levesque 1-3), PORT 6-19 (N. Mitrovic 3-4; T. Riley 1-5; T. Douglas 0-3; R. Nicholas 1-1; K. Bailey 1-2; D. Carr 0-3; D. Cason 0-1); Rebounds: SMC 33 (R. Jones 13), PORT 24 (T. van der Mars 8); Assists: SMC 16 (M. Dellavedova 9), PORT 9 (T. Riley 3); Total Fouls -- SMC 14, PORT 23; Fouled Out: SMC-None; PORT-K. Bailey.