MBK: Westmont draws Lewis-Clark State in NAIA Tournament

The Westmont men’s basketball teamed earned their official golden ticket to the 2015 Buffalo Funds – NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship on Wednesday.

As coaches, players and Westmont employees gathered around to watch the selection show online, the moment of truth revealed that the men will take on #12 seed Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) on Thursday March 19 at 7:45 p.m.

It will be a duel Warrior matchup as the Westmont Warriors (21-10) take on the Lewis-Clark Warriors (25-7) in Kansas City, Mo.

The LCSC Warriors recently closed out their regular season play with a record of 23-7 and went on to win the Frontier Conference Championship last week against Montana Western – a team who will also be making an appearance in the NAIA Tournament.

The opposing Warriors come in with a roster stacked full of new talent. This season they brought in three true freshmen and seven transfers, all of which have seen court time. In his first season at LCSC, sophomore, Montana State transfer Jacob Wiley has made quite an impression on the team and in the NAIA. The 6-6 forward ranks as #6 in the NAIA in field goal percentage (60.6 percent) and #9 in total blocks (58 on the season). He averages 14.5 points per game and pulls down an average of 7.4 rebounds each time on the court.

Wiley will be joined by 6-3 senior guard Brady Bagby who is one of the top shooters on the team. In regular season play, Bagby went 151 for 331 from the field (45.6 percent) and sank 74 of 179 shots from three point range (41.3 percent). Another strong asset to the Warrior lineup is 6-8 sophomore forward Erick Drouf. The Warriors are currently ranked at #1 in the NAIA in total rebound margin, due to players like Drouf. As a whole, LCSC outrebounds their opponents by an average of 11.9 boards per game. The sophomore standout pulls down an average of 7.8 of his own rebounds per match up. He also consistently scores around 12 points for the Warriors and has gone 155 for 241 (64.3 percent) from the field this season.

Lewis-Clark has many good individual players that ultimately build a solid team unit. The men currently rank at #2 in the NAIA in field goal percentage (50.9 percent) and #4 in scoring margin – defeating their opponents by an average of 18 points per game. With seven players 6-5 or taller, they rank #4 in the NAIA in total blocks (142).

The Westmont Warriors come into this tournament ranked #21 in the NAIA. Some people may think that going up against the #12 seed may be intimidating, but may I remind you that the Golden State Athletic Conference consists of some of the top NAIA schools in the country. Our Warriors regularly compete against some of the best talent in the country.

One of the best weapons that the Warriors have is their offense. Westmont currently ranks at #2 in the NAIA in three-point field goal percentage, shooting at a 40.2 clip from outside the arc in regular season play. Freshman Sean Harman continues to be a huge asset from the three-point line and ranks #3 nationally with a 48.2 percent success rate. Thankfully, the Warriors are not just good from the three-point line, but from all around. With a 48.6 overall field goal percentage, the Warrior men rank amongst the top ten shooting teams in the country.

Sophomore Cory Blau will continue to be a key player on the Warrior roster as the men head into tournament play. Blau leads the team with 16.4 points per game and is a huge offensive asset. He will be accompanied by senior Daniel Carlin who will be fighting each game to continue his collegiate basketball career. The Aussie not only holds it down offensively with a 62.4 field goal percentage (fourth highest in the NAIA), but also is a defensive powerhouse who grabs 7.3 boards per game.

Thankfully, the Warrior roster is not just reliant upon a couple of players, but have a talent that runs deep. When you take Cory Blau’s shooting, couple it with Nate Marsing’s tenacious defense, add an inside presence from Daniel Carlin, quickness from Britton Williams and clutch shots from Jerry “Ice in the Veins” Karczewski, you’re bound to get a good outcome. One of the best parts about this team is the humility of these men and the teamwork that happens on the court. It’s amazing what can happen when no one cares who gets the credit. This team is proof of that.

The men head to Kansas City at the end of the week to begin prepping for what they have been working towards all season. They officially tip off at 9:45 p.m. on Thursday, March 19. Games will be available online at the NAIA Stretch Internet Portal (there are links on the Westmont Men’s Schedule page).