The Connolly Complex was full of emotion on Saturday, Feb. 18. It was senior night and the Seattle University men’s basketball team (12-15, 4-7 Western Athletic Conference) was up against California State University Bakersfield Men’s Basketball team (19-7, 10-1), the leading team in the WAC standings.
#0 Brendan Westendorf absorbs the contact and attempts to finish a difficult shot against CSUB.
With four minutes and 48 seconds left on the clock, the Redhawks were tied against the ‘Runners, 42-42. About two minutes later, the two teams were tied, still, 46-46. The crowd cheered louder in between pursued field goals, while both coaches expressed their concerns.
With 20 seconds left on the clock, the tie was broken. The Redhawks lost against the ‘Runners, who kept their topmost position in the WAC standings, 51-48.
“They’re [CSU Bakersfield] league leaders in the conference for a reason. They’re going to tough out. They scrap and they fight you, they go after you, and they got multiple guys that compete,” Seattle University’s men’s basketball Head Coach Cameron Dollar said. “But I thought, like what was evident [was] that we can play with them.”
The Redhawks took the lead during the first half of the game with six points, 28-22, a lead Dollar wished was greater. A bigger lead in the first half could have helped extend the lead to the second half.
Senior #21 William Powell has started 64 of the 92 games his career, totaling 632 points and 528 rebounds.
“At the start of the first half I thought we should’ve had a bigger league going in half time with how we had played,” Dollar said. “Then we made some errors, didn’t shoot it well and then in the second half, their [CSU Bakerfield] defense just kind of bothered us a little bit.”
Striving to move past this bothersome defense, Seattle U’s underclassmen played tough. The spotlight was on freshman guard for the Redhawk’s, Matej Kavas, who contributed four field goals and two 3-pointers. Also adding points to the Redhawk’s scoreboard was freshman guard Morgan Means. Zachary Moore, a sophomore guard for the Redhawks, completed three field goals and a single 3-pointer.
Out of the possible 16 free-throws Seattle University took, they made 12, with William Powell, senior forward for the Redhawks, completing six of them and Brendan Westendorf, senior guard for Seattle U, making another four.
#1 Morgan Means takes a shot in traffic against CSUB.
Looking at both teams’ history, Seattle U has had a tough time beating CSU Bakersfield. Last season the ‘Runners won all three games played against the Redhawks, 79-52, 93-71, and 72-47. This season, the teams matched twice, a game on Jan. 7 at Bakersfield and the most recent game on Feb. 18 at home and the ‘Runners took both wins. Compared to the difference in scores for the games played last season, this season the Redhawks gave CSU Bakersfield a challenge, losing by only a handful of points, 78-71 and 51-48.
Although the Redhawks didn’t get the win they were playing for and that all Redhawk fans were cheering for, the team gave a considerable show for their fans, not allowing the ‘Runners to lead profoundly.
The senior student-athletes, who played their last game at home in the Connolly Complex, entered the season loaded with grit, winning against Pacific Lutheran at home. They ended with great effort against a powerhouse team in the conference.
Playing alongside the seniors during their senior night, the underclassmen have accumulated wisdom of the game that they’ll use for the next few seasons.
“I really took away that this group of seniors are really bought in,” Means said.
“They really want the best for us and they really are great role models.”
At the start of the game each senior walked to center court accompanied by their family. Believing his father was going to be the only one present for his big game, Powell was surprised when his whole family was present.
Senior #0 Brendan Westendorf transferred to Seattle U in 2015, and has started all games the past two years.
“I hadn’t seen them all together in a long time. They surprised me yesterday when I walked into the hotel and everybody was there,” Powell said about his family visit. “It was fun playing in front of all of them at one time.”
Looking at the years of dedication the senior athletes have given, at the end of game, Dollar expressed his thoughts on the road the Redhawks’ senior student-athletes have embarked.
“They’ve been great role models and great representatives of Seattle U,” Dollar said. “It’s a grind being a student-athlete, especially here. So, to be able to handle that and do it successfully shows your character and who you are. So, I’m just thankful for them.”
The Redhawks now look forward to playing their next game against UT Rio Grande Valley (10-18, 2-9) at Edinburg, Tex. on Thursday at 5 p.m.
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