The basketball season is close to its end for the Wildcats. They played their final two home games at the Dee Events Center ahead of spring break, the first a showdown against Portland State.
The game started off quickly with the Wildcats taking an early lead when senior guard Jerrick Harding put in an acrobatic up-and-under layup. The Vikings responded with two three-pointers in the first five minutes from forward Alonzo Walker.
Momentum started to turn in the Wildcats favor after a Jerick Harding alley-pop to freshmen center Tim Fuller brought the Dee Events Center crowd to its feet. A powerful two-handed slam by sophomore guard Israel Barnes and a big block by Fuller on the other end got Weber State going early on.
Freshmen KJ Cunningham, junior Kham Davis and Barnes pitched in by facilitating on offense and playing scrappy and hard-nosed defense all night.
However, the Vikes’ hung on thanks to PSU’s Lamar Hamrick, who put on a three-point clinic toward the end of the first half, sinking back-to-back three-pointers and then adding another in the final minute.
Three-point shooting made a big difference in the first half as the Vikings made six threes to the Wildcats’ one.
The second half tipped off with Weber State immediately cutting the Viking lead in half after a layup from Harding.
Portland State’s defense tightened up as they went on an 11–5 run with another set of back-to-back three-pointers, this time from Holland Woods. The Vikings reached their biggest lead of the night of 15 points after a run which included huge put-back dunks by Rashaad Goolsby and Walker.
The Wildcats mounted a comeback, ignited by a big three-pointer from senior guard Cody John, who drew a foul the next possession while making a layup. John sunk the free throw, cutting the Viking lead to nine with nine minutes left to play.
After a steal by junior forward Kham Davis and another and-1 conversion from John, the Wildcat comeback was roaring. Back-to-back layups by Harding cut the Vikings lead to only two points—85 to 83—with only 47 seconds remaining.
However, despite the valiant effort from Weber State, the Vikings axed the comeback attempt after making two free throws and another layup, taking home the victory with a final score of 89–83.
“I think we did a good job of chipping away at that deficit late in the game,” Fuller said. “Basketball is a game of runs, and we knew sometime in the second half we were going to push back and make our run. It was a tough loss tonight.”
The Wildcats played a hard-fought game and kept coming back and making runs all the way until the end, but PSU’s experienced team managed to hold the ‘Cats off.
“It was a terrific effort, that’s a really good basketball team right there,” head coach Randy Rahe said. “I think they’re as talented a team as there is in the league.”
The Wildcats weren’t done on the hardwood, taking on the Idaho State Bengals March 2 on Senior Night. Harding, John and forward Brenden Morris were celebrated before the game on center court at the Dee Events Center.
John has played in 125 games for the Wildcats, which is fifth most in school history, starting 89 of those contests.
Harding has suited up for 118 games at Weber State and has scored 2,199 points for the Wildcats, the fifth most of any active NCAA player. Harding also leads the school in points and free throw percentage.
John and Harding led the team during a tough game in which Idaho State jumped out to an early lead with a 14-6 run in the first five minutes.
Harding kept the Wildcats in the game throughout a first half in which the ball wasn’t bouncing their way. Harding led Weber State in scoring with three three-pointers and fifteen total points in the first half.
Idaho State went into the half with a 46-37 lead, as they had five players with seven or more points at the half. Wildcats John and Davis each poured in eight points.
After the break, the Wildcats came out with new life. After a big defensive stop, John was fouled on his successful layup attempt and made the free throw. A minute later, a power slam from Davis cut the lead to only two points for the Bengals.
Tarik Cool from the Bengals responded with a flurry of layups and a three from deep for a 7-0 run for Idaho State. John lead the Wildcats in the second half with 15 points.
The Wildcats fought hard and clawed back, but never quite got back in it as John finished with 23 points and Harding with 18 on the night.
With the Wildcats down by 10, Ogden’s own Morris out of Ben Lomond High School checked into the game with 50 seconds, as Wildcat fans were on their feet chanting his name.
Once the Wildcats inbounded the ball Morris was fired a pass but missed the corner three as it went off the front of the rim. However, he got in his last word on his home floor, slamming in a two-handed dunk as time expired on a final score of 78-70.
“We have a lot of talented people, I think a lot of unfortunate situations happened to our team, it’s been a fight the whole season, but this team’s very good,” Davis said.
Rahe commented on the trials this team has gone through.
“In my fourteen years this has been the most adversity we’ve ever had,” Rahe said. “All the injuries and stuff we’ve had and how they’ve have handled it has been outstanding. A lot of teams would’ve given in a long time ago. The toughness and resiliency they’ve shown this whole season is what I’m going to remember about them.”
The Wildcats finish the season up in the Pacific Northwest against the Eastern Washington Eagles after they defeated the Idaho Vandals on March 5. The Wildcats sit at 12-18 as the Big Sky tournament looms.