WESTMINSTER BASKETBALL NOTES: Griffins hit Florida
December 23, 2005
The Salt Lake Tribune
By John Coon
Westminster did not win the Super Bowl, but went to Disneyworld anyway. The Griffins played in the NAIA Disney Challenge in Orlando, Fla., earlier this week.
Several schools were selected from a pool of teams by the NAIA and assigned to play pre-determined opponents. Westminster faced Virginia Intermont College in its first game on Tuesday and followed up Wednesday against Freed-Hardeman University.
“It just happened to be a tournament that worked out for us because we needed games prior to Christmas,” coach Tommy Connor said.
Neither opponent Westminster faced has had much success this season.
Virgin Intermont has struggled in NAIA play. A season opening loss to instate rival Southern Virginia began a five-game losing streak, and another four-game losing streak left the Cobras at 3-10 coming into their game against the Griffins.
Freed-Hardeman stood at 5-9, a record that includes recent losses to NCAA Division I opponents Lipscomb, Arkansas State, and Middle Tennessee.
Westminster will face much more challenging foes when it heads to Phoenix, Ariz., for the upcoming Grand Canyon Classic and takes on two NAIA Division II powerhouses - Benedictine College and Walsh University.
Benedictine is ranked 12th in the latest NAIA Division II poll. The Ravens won six out of their first seven games to start the season.
Walsh continues to roll despite the loss of NAIA Division II Player of the Year Robert Whaley Ð now with the Utah Jazz. The Cavs returned three starters from last year's NAIA Division II championship team and boast an 8-3 record after six straight wins following a 2-2 start.
Connor knows his team will need to work extra hard to pick up a win in Arizona - especially against Walsh.
They're ranked right now, so obviously they're still pretty good,” Connor said. “You just assume they can't be as good without a guy that's now on the Jazz roster.”
Moving up the polls
Westminster finished last season as a top-10-ranked team in NAIA Division I. The way things are going, it might finish 2005 the same way.
The Griffins moved up one spot to 13th in the latest poll released on Dec. 14 Westminster is 7-2 overall and owns an 80-61 victory over 21st-ranked San Diego Christian. The Griffins also beat Concordia - another Golden State Athletic Conference team - when the Eagles were ranked 12th.
Point Loma Nazarene, which edged Westminster 77-75 earlier in the season, is ranked 10th.
Frontier Conference rival Carroll College is ranked seventh. The Griffins will travel to Montana to square off against Carroll on Jan. 7.
“We deserve to be there,” said junior forward Lance Barton. “We got a couple of really good wins and a couple of tough losses. It feels good to be with a really competitive and winning program.”