PORT ANGELES – The Northwest Athletic Conference defines success as character, competition and community. Peninsula College athletes aspire to be good students, good citizens and to win championships. By all of those measures, the 2015-16 Peninsula College men’s basketball players are champions.
The sophomore-dominated Pirates took awhile to find themselves this year, after finishing third in the NWAC in 2014-15, going 7-7 in non-conference play. Then, with no personnel changes, they simply turned up the heat, surprising the North Region by winning 11 games and dropping just three, to claim their first region title since 2008 and their fourth in the history of the program.
That gave Peninsula a No. 1 seed into the 2016 NWAC Men’s Basketball Tournament and a No. 2 ranking in the latest Alaska Airlines Coaches Poll.
Chemeketa, meanwhile, was making a run of its own, winning six of its final seven conference games, including a 15-point victory over South Region champion Clark to place fourth in the South with a 9-7 league record and a 19-11 overall mark.
When the two teams met in the first round of the tournament Saturday evening, a full house at the Peninsula College gym got to see a great college basketball game that came down to the final minute – and that 60 seconds simply went Chemeketa’s way. The Storm got stops and then hit clutch free throws down the stretch to escape with a 69-63 upset – ending the season for a Pirate team that played with heart and class from the opening weekend.
The sudden exit left the Pirates out of the eight-team NWAC Tournament, coming up March 11-13 in Everett – and it proved to be the final time eight sophomores, Dimitri Amos, Ryley Callaghan, Deonte Dixon, Jeremiah Hobbs, Malik Mayeux, Zach Nibler, Chris Reis, and CJ Wood, donned their black and gold-trimmed uniforms.
Freshman guard Darrion Daniels led the Pirates with 19 points off the bench, Callaghan hit for 16 and Dixon had 14. Amos contributed nine points and nine rebounds.
PORT ANGELES – Peninsula College sophomore Ryley Callaghan was named North Region Most Valuable Player and was one of three Pirates to earn All-Region recognition, four Pirates were named to the NWAC All-Academic Team, and head coach Mitch Freeman was named North Region Coach of the Year, as announced by the Northwest Athletic Conference this week.
Callaghan, of Port Orchard, is Peninsula’s second-leading scorer this year, averaging 14.64 points per game from his point guard position, and leads the team in assists with 81.
Deonte Dixon, a sophomore guard from Bremerton, was named Second Team All-Region. He leads the Pirates in scoring at 15.36 points per game, and in steals with 30.
Daniels, a freshman from Las Vegas, was named to the All-Defensive Team.
Coach Freeman, in his third year as head coach at Peninsula, was named Coach of the Year. He guided the Pirates from a 7-7 non-conference record to an 11-3 record and a North Region championship, the first for the Pirate men since 2008.
SHORELINE – The stage is set for the first round of the Northwest Athletic Conference’s 2016 Basketball Championship Tournament – and for the Peninsula College men and women, it starts at home.
The Pirates host two first round playoff games Saturday.
The two-time defending North Region champion PC women (13-1, 22-5), ranked fifth in the latest Alaska Airlines NWAC Coaches Poll, take on the East Region’s fourth-place Treasure Valley (9-5, 18-10), an unranked team from Ontario, Oregon, at 3 p.m.
Following that game, the fifth-ranked Pirate men (11-3, 18-10), who captured their first North Region men’s basketball title since 2008, will host unranked Chemeketa (9-7, 18-11), the fourth-place team from the South Region out of Salem, Oregon, at 5 p.m.
The first round of the new format for the NWAC tournament is single elimination. The eight women’s and men’s winners then will advance to a modified double-elimination tournament that starts on March 10 for the women and March 11 for the men at Everett Community College. The trophy round is set for March 13 for women and men. Women’s bracket. Men’s bracket.
The NWAC established ticket prices for the playoffs as follows: $10 for adults; $7 for youth 7-17, for seniors (60-over) and for active military, and free admission to current college students and children 6-under. Peninsula College is not allowed to accept Pirate season passes. NWAC Tournament programs will be sold for $6.