Men’s Hoopers set to host tourney


Justin St. Peter, Sports Editor

Despite falling in the second round of the WIAC Championships, the Warhawks men’s basketball team will host games in the first and second rounds of the Division-III NCAA tournament.

The ’Hawks (21-6) will face the University of Northwestern-St. Paul (20-7), who won the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament championship at 7:30 p.m. on March 3 at Kachel Gymnasium.

Augustana College (Illinois 19-8) will face St. Thomas University (Minnesota 19-7) at 5:30 before the ’Hawks matchup.

The winner of both matchups will play at 7 p.m. the following night for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

It was a mild surprise that the ’Hawks are hosting NCAA tournament games after not winning the regular season or conference tournament, but UW-W will get the luxury of home-court advantage for the first few games.

UW-W has played more games at home this year, going 13-3 at home vs. 6-3 on the road, and head coach Pat Miller’s squad will be a tough out in this year’s tournament with the advantage.

The ’Hawks have a lead-point guard dynamo in junior Chris Jones who led the WIAC in scoring per game (17.8), was fourth in assists per game (3.13) and was second in three-point percentage (47.8 percent). Jones is able to use the threat of his three-point shot to drive in the paint and pass to the Warhawks host of three-point shooters.

Junior 6’8” forward Scotty Tyler gives the ’Hawks an option down and low and on the perimeter, averaging 14.4 points, six rebounds, while still shooting 40.8 percent from three-point range on 103 attempts for the year.

Junior Demetrius Woodley has been on a tear offensively, and senior guard-forward Drew Bryson has been tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player for most of the year and has performed admirably. Sophomore guard/forward Derek Rongstad also contributes reliable numbers scoring, rebounding and passing to round out the ’Hawks starting five.

With the formidable five starters and deep bench, it was a bit of a surprise to see the ’Hawks struggle vs. fellow NCAA tournament qualifier UW-Oshkosh.

The ’Hawks fell to UW-Oshkosh 75-61 Feb. 23 on the road in the second round, after previously dispatching UW-Stout for the third time on the season 78-69 in the first round of the WIAC tournament on Feb. 21 at home.

Unlike the previous times the ’Hawks beat the UW-Stout Blue Devils, this matchup was much closer, yet Miller was
not surprised.

“Early on, we had some good looks that we missed and didn’t get off to a very good start,” Miller said. “I think that gave them energy, and they were in it from that point on.”

Although it was a much closer contest than the previous meetings, Miller’s squad controlled the game throughout. The Blue Devils pulled within one point twice before UW-W went on runs to regain control.

Woodley was in attack mode all night and finished with a career-high 24 points, while Tyler chipped in 17 points and seven rebounds. Jones and Rongstad were in double-figures with 12 and 10 points respectively.

In the second round matchup vs. UW-Oshkosh, the ’Hawks were forced to try and play catch-up after the Titans made nine of the team’s 12 first shots, including seven of 10 three-point range.

The ’Hawks were never able to cut the Titans’ lead to single digits the entire game but were able to get extra rest for the NCAA tournament.

Tyler led the team with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Rongstad added 16 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Andre Brown contributed 11 points off the bench.

Well-rested and battle-tested, this ’Hawks squad will be a force to reckoned with in the NCAA tournament.