Heading into the last week of the regular season, the Weber State University men’s basketball team needs just one more win to claim the Big Sky Conference regular-season championship outright. The Wildcats clinched a share of the title last Thursday, knocking off California State University, Sacramento.
However, the Wildcats are not content with a share of the Big Sky title. They want it all to themselves.
“I’m proud of our guys,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “They are excited to have a share of it. But now we are going to get really, really greedy. You come this far and work this hard, you don’t want to share this thing.”
The Wildcats will have two opportunities this week to be the only team to host a championship banner. After facing Portland State University yesterday, the Wildcats will finish their season against Eastern Washington University on Saturday.
“We’ve definitely had our ups and downs,” said WSU sophomore Joel Bolomboy. “We just have each other’s back every night and try to win every game. The season isn’t over. We still have two games left and the conference tournament.”
While staying focused on the last games of the season, Rahe paused to reflect on what it means to the players, especially the seniors, to be Big Sky champions.
“For our seniors, they can now say that they are champions,” he said. “That is something that has eluded them. That group hasn’t done that. I’ve reminded them of that when I am not very happy with them. They hadn’t won anything since they’ve been here. Now they can say that they’ve won something. We want to take it a step further.”
Senior Davion Berry, who transferred to WSU after two years at California State University, Monterey Bay, a junior college, said this was a great accomplishment near the end of his college career. CSUMB went 17-36 in the time that Berry played there. This season, Berry is one of a few players who will be considered for the Big Sky Most Valuable Player award.
“In my first two years, I didn’t win,” Berry said. “Coming here with these guys and the coaching staff, there is just no better feeling. I love this team. It is the funnest time of my basketball career, just playing basketball and enjoying my teammates.”
With WSU’s first Big Sky title in four years and the 21st overall title for the program, Rahe said the championship isn’t the end goal. The Wildcats still want to win the tournament and head to the NCAA Tournament. Winning the regular season championship is just the first step.
“We want to take it a step farther,” Rahe said. “We have a tremendous group of kids. They are what Weber State basketball is all about: character, toughness, unselfishness, great teammates. They are exactly what Weber State is all about, and that is why they’ve won a lot of games since they’ve been here.”
Regardless of whether the Wildcats win their last two games, the Big Sky announced that WSU would host the Big Sky Tournament for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
The tournament will take place March 13-15. The Wildcats have a first-round bye. Their first game will be on March 14 at 7 p.m. against the lowest-seeded team remaining from the games on Thursday.
“We are excited about (hosting the tournament),” Rahe said. “These kids deserve it. They have worked hard.”
The Wildcats have reached the final round of the championship tournament three out of the last four seasons. In each of those four tournaments, WSU was knocked off by the University of Montana, which is also in contention to make the tournament.
As of Wednesday, WSU and the University of North Dakota are the only two teams that had clinched a spot in the tournament. Eight teams are still in contention for the final five spots.