My mom and I went out to Cheney last night to watch the Eastern Washington Eagles play in the Big Sky tournament semifinals. I felt a little bad because I didn’t get a chance to change out of the navy blue Gonzaga Basketball shirt I wore to work yesterday and into something red and more appropriate to the Eagle’s colors. Luckily there were more than enough properly attired Eagles fans to make up for my apparel gaff however and I actually did see at least one GU hat on another fan while I was at the game. I definitely won’t make the same mistake tonight when we go to the championship.
The first semifinal game was between Idaho State and Northern Arizona and I have to say that the Bengals must have left their defense back in Pocatello. NAU has a reputation for having excellent perimeter shooters and they were getting wide open looks (and nailing them) all game long. ISU looked pretty hapless on defense the whole game and their coach didn’t particularly impress me either. The game was basically over by halftime and ended up being a 20 point NAU victory.
While the first game was somewhat disappointing, the EWU — Weber State semifinal more than covered the price of admission. The Eagles came out and played impressively on both ends of the court from the opening tip. Brendan Merritt pushed the ball up the court like a man possessed and before Weber State knew what had hit them they were down 10-2.
Tenacious man to man defense and aggressive transition offense were key in Eastern's quick start, but I was also impressed by their discipline and efficiency in the half court. The Eagles modified "Princeton"-like offense with one high post and four guys making diagonol cuts off of him was very effective and the kind of thing I would actually like to look at incorporating into the Ferris JV offense next year. By the end of the first half EWU had a 40-22 lead and firm control of the game.
Weber State came out in the second half and made some runs, but the Eagles always answered. At one point Weber switched to zone defense and the Eagles offense started to sputter, but then Axton, Snow and Pariseau all hit some big shots from the perimeter and that was that. In the end the Eagles came away with a 72-53 win and for the fourth straight year are just one game away from the NCAA tournament. I expect another great game tonight, hopefully this will be the Eagles' year.