Seattle Pacific University’s men’s basketball team was staring three must-win games in the face to build their chances at postseason play this year. They stepped up and won them all, leading by at least 17 at one point in each game. Unfortunately, these wins weren’t enough to make the postseason tournament, as the Falcons only played eight games against fellow division II opponents, and the selection committee went with teams that played more games.
For the final game of the season, the Falcons faced Saint Martin’s University, who had a 2-9 record coming into the game on Saturday, March 6. Neither team got out of the gates quickly, as Falcon guard Zack Paulsen made the first shot of the game for either team three minutes in. Saint Martin’s kept it close for the first fifteen minutes of the first half, but the Falcons outscored the Saints 16-9 in the last five minutes, giving SPU a 39-25 lead.
The Falcons held a 60-44 lead, then broke off a 19-4 run, fueled by 12 points from guard Divant’e Moffitt and two three pointers from Paulsen. A dunk with a minute and a half to play by redshirt sophomore Jacob Medjo punctuated a 34-point Falcon victory, 95-61.
Moffitt and senior guard Harry Cavell led the Falcons with 23 points apiece, and Goy Wang had 14 for the Saints.
Meanwhile, the women’s basketball team was facing a new opponent in Western Washington University. Though the Falcons lost both contests, head coach Mike Simonson is thankful for the opportunity the team had to grow this season.
“Every single one of our games this year was close. There was never a blowout game…. I feel this group is way more resilient than they were last year, we’re tougher and grittier and mentally tough and it’s because we’ve had a lot of close battles this year,” Simonson said.
The Vikings, playing only their third game on the season, jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the first quarter. From there, the Vikings maintained a double-digit lead on the Falcons through most of the second quarter, though the Falcons got within seven points as the half ended.
The Falcons gained the lead in the third quarter, but Dani Iwami scored five of her 16 points at the end of the third quarter, giving the Vikings the lead back for good, as they took down the Falcons 58-50.
The next night, the Falcons honored senior Ashlynn Burgess, who will not be returning to the Falcons next year, forgoing her extra year of eligibility.
“She’s very passionate, she’s extremely humble, and she’s very thankful for every situation she’s ever put in. She has a great mindset in the way that she lives her life…. She’s someone I completely trust,” Simonson said.
The Falcons played the Vikings even closer in this game. It was a rough start for the team, as the Falcons only made two of their first nine shots, and Western Washington built up a 20-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. The offense and defense got going in the second, and the Falcons went on a 14-5 scoring run to give themselves a 26-25 lead at halftime.
Trading stops, the points were hard to come by. The Vikings had a 47-44 lead with four seconds to play in the game. Simonson called a timeout to set up a play. Burgess was subbed in to take the final shot. Coming off a screen, she launched a three-pointer.
Just like that, the game was headed to overtime.
“I knew it was going in the moment it left my hand, but it felt like an eternity just waiting for it to go through the net,” Burgess said. “Once it went in, my teammates erupted, it was so cool to see them and be with them in that moment. It is something I’ll remember for a while, because I was so happy that I could make that shot for them.”
Again, the teams traded baskets. Falcon freshman Hailey Marlow hit two free throws with 15 seconds to play to give the Falcons a two-point lead, but Avery Dykstra was fouled at the other end and made both of her free throws. The Falcons looked for a good shot, but Marlow was blocked by Gracie Castaneda. Dykstra made a layup with two seconds to play, and the Falcons lost a heartbreaker.
Natalie Hoff was the only Falcon in double figures with ten points, leading a balanced attack. She also added eight rebounds. Marlow had a career high nine points. Dykstra led the Vikings with 13, and Castaneda had 10 points and six rebounds.
As Burgess moves on to the next chapter in her life, she is thankful for the opportunity to be a Falcon.
“Not only did I have the privilege to play the game I love at a highly competitive level, but also, I was blessed to do so with amazing teammates and coaches who encouraged me, pushed me to be my best, and who supported me every day,” Burgess said.