Game #9-432: Santa Clara Broncos at Portland PilotsFebruary 23, 2013 5:00 pm
Every season ends, but they all end differently. In 2011-12 I couldn't wait for the Portland Pilots' season to be over. After seeing too many games in which they were overmatched and inexperienced I was tired and ready to wait for next year.
This season, however, after a 1-8 start in WCC play, the Pilots had gone 3-2 in their next five, including a good win over San Diego two days prior. Santa Clara would be a difficult opponent but also a good test of how far the Pilots had come. The Broncos had made a very impressive turnaround from the prior season, in which they went an incredible 0-18 in conference. However, they were without Kevin Foster, their best player, for much of the season due to suspension. When he returned, however, he was back to his old self.
Derrick Rodgers scored the first basket of the game in his final Chiles Center appearance as the only senior on the Portland roster. Foster quickly went down and hit a superhoop to give SCU the lead and that, to put it mildly, was just the beginning. The Broncos scored on six consecutive possessions, with four of those being superhoops, to take a 16-4 lead after just over three minutes. Their hot shooting continued as they pushed the score to 42-22 with 2:47 to go. That the Pilots were able to make it "only" 44-30 halftime score was small consolation. SCU shot 50% from the field and 60% (9-15) from long range, an incredible offensive performance.
In the second half the Pilots got off to a good start of their own, cutting the deficit in half with a 7-0 run. SCU responded by slowly pushing the lead back to 14, and although the Pilots were within five, at 57=52 with 6:25 to go, the Broncos forced some inconvenient turnovers and made baskets and free throws to earn a comfortable 75-63 win, their 20th of the season. The Broncos have a good core of players who all did well. Foster had 20 points, and forward Marc Trasolini and guard Raymond Cowels III each had 17. Cowels was 5-11 from superhoop range and he and Foster (4-9) were big parts of the first half that the Pilots really didn't recover from.✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
Portland has one game left, March 2 at Gonzaga. As in, Gonzaga, who could very well be the 1 team in the country by the time you read this. While I think that's nice, we here know polls don't count for a whole lot in this game. On the other hand the fact Gonzaga could even be considered as 1 shows just how far the WCC has come.
When I arrived at Portland as a freshman in 1999, Gonzaga had made its first Elite 8 run but was still not a household name. I thought eventually they would go back to being a decent WCC program someday. But they haven't gone away. Instead of coming back to the rest of the WCC pack, Gonzaga has started a conference arms race. In the chase to stay somewhere near Gonzaga the rest of the WCC has increased their basketball spending. They've upgraded facilities, paid their coaches more, scheduled harder opponents. For their part Gonzaga's consistently high performance has helped get a TV deal for the entire WCC that's the envy of nearly every other conference below the Red Line.
The WCC's rise up the mid-major pecking order has had even more interesting effects. For as long as I've been following Pilot basketball, going back to the mid-90s as a boy, there were eight schools and that was that. As leagues like the Summit and Horizon were formed and the Atlantic 10 expanded, the WCC stayed as it was, seemingly impervious to all the chaos around the rest of the college sports landscape.
Of course, starting in 2011, that changed. First it was BYU, leaving their old conference in order to look for a better deal for their football team. I'm not sure they're aware of the conference in which they've ended up, or how long they plan to stay (actually I'm pretty sure they'll be gone as soon as a BCS conference comes calling). For as long as they are here, though, they'll help every other WCC school sell tickets and their basketball team will help the conference RPI. They'll also give Portland stiff competition in cross country and women's soccer, two sports Portland is very good at.
In the fall of 2013 Pacific will join, as they've wanted to do for many years. This move should be good not only for basketball but for the other WCC sports as well, and I think the Tigers will be here long after the Cougars have gone. There were even rumors of Gonzaga joining the new "Catholic Seven" version of the Big East. Those rumors don't seem to have a lot of truth now that we know Butler and Xavier are likely to join, with Saint Louis, Creighton, and Dayton also possibly signing on, but it's Gonzaga. And for GU, the chance to compete with so many solid programs every season must be just a little tempting. I don't think it'll happen, but you never know these days...
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Going back through Basketball State, there have been 195 Pilot home games since 1999. I think I've missed about 30 of those as a conservative estimate. My personal consecutive games streak is currently at 43, my last game missed being the 2010-11 season opener. The Pilots have been, and always will be, my first team, and barring several acts of the basketball gods this will be the last Pilot game I recap here. Whatever happens to this site, all of Portland's home games from Seasons 8 and 9 will be on the internet for at least a little while, for everyone to see. I don't brag about myself much but that's an accomplishment I'm proud of. Given the Pilots' record the past couple years I don't know who would want to read through all of them, but here they are.
If you read any or all of them, thanks for taking the time. To those of you I've met in person or interacted with online because of this site, I hope we'll stay in touch. The Pilots do have fans besides myself, none more dedicated than fellow TMM contributor Steven Langston, who went out and supported every athletic team the Pilots had until he graduated last year. It's nice to have someone at a game you talk about the Pilots with and I hope we can do it again soon. And I can't thank Kyle Whelliston enough for starting TMM, then having the turning it over to us with minimal adult supervision.
The game has changed in the time I've been watching, sometimes gradually, sometimes rapidly, as we've seen in recent years. But some things will stay the same. Even if this site only has a year left, what it represents will stay the same after it's gone. We'll go to watch mid-majors, however that's defined post-Red Line, and think about what we saw, and what makes Our Game great. And then we'll tell others about what we saw, and maybe we'll change the way they look at sports. The Mid-Majority changed my outlook and I hope we can all keep doing the same. There's always more chances because there's always another game.
SANTA CLARA 75, at PORTLAND 63
SANTA CLARA 20-9 (8-6) -- S. Pledger 7-9 2-3 19; K. Foster 4-12 8-8 20; E. Roquemore 3-7 1-2 8; M. Trasolini 8-15 1-3 17; R. Cowels III 6-15 0-0 17; Y. Atanga 1-3 1-2 3; B. Clark 2-4 2-2 6; J. McArthur 0-0 0-0 0; N. Harrison 1-1 0-0 2; J. Clarke 1-1 0-0 2; R. Garrett 0-0 0-0 0; D. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 13-17 75.
PORTLAND 11-19 (4-11) -- D. Rodgers 4-13 1-2 9; K. Bailey 4-14 2-2 11; B. Pressley 3-7 0-0 9; R. Nicholas 2-10 3-4 8; T. van der Mars 5-9 1-1 11; K. Thieleke 2-2 1-2 5; J. Ehlers 2-3 2-2 7; T. Riley 1-6 1-1 3; J. Bailey 0-0 0-0 0; R. Barker 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 23-64 11-16 63.
Three-point goals: SCL 10-25 (K. Foster 4-9; R. Cowels 5-11; E. Roquemore 1-4; B. Clark 0-1), PORT 6-18 (T. Riley 0-2; R. Nicholas 1-5; K. Bailey 1-4; J. Ehlers 1-2; B. Pressley 3-5); Rebounds: SCL 42 (Y. Atanga 16), PORT 29 (R. Nicholas 7); Assists: SCL 14 (K. Foster 7), PORT 12 (D. Rodgers 7); Total Fouls -- SCL 18, PORT 18; Fouled Out: SCL-None; PORT-B. Pressley.
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