If you look at the statistics posted by the Lower Columbia College and North Idaho men’s basketball teams, the similarities are uncanny.
“This is a good matchup of teams which play similar styles,” LCC coach Mickey Polis said. “Both can score from outside, and can also get near the rim and score. Both are also great defensive teams. Both are similar in a lot of areas.”
The 10th-ranked Red Devils (20-8) and fifth-ranked Cardinals (21-8) from Coeur d’Alene will meet in the opening round of the NWAC Men’s Basketball Championships at 10 p.m. Saturday in the Walt Price Fitness Center at Everett College.
The winner advances to face either top-ranked Everett or 11th-ranked Chemeketa in a quarterfinal matchup at 8 p.m. Sunday, while the loser goes home.
“The draw is like any other as you’re stuck with whomever,” Polis said. “We have three good teams in our part of the bracket. Three top seeds went down in the first round last year, so anything can happen.”
LCC averages 82.2 points per game, while North Idaho is a bit better at 86.4. The Red Devils have the second-stingiest defense allowing 73.1 points, and NIC gives up 74.4. The Cardinals lead the conference in field goal percentage (48.1) and second in rebounding (45.2), while LCC is ninth in rebounding (41.3) and 10th in shooting (46.1).
“They’re big, and have good length,” Polis said of the Cardinals. “They have good athleticism to play good defense, and they force you to take difficult shots. We’ll have our hands full stopping them offensively.”
Freshman guard RayQuan Evans, who was named to the East Region first-team and was selected the region Freshman of the Year, sets the Cardinal offense in motion. He’s ranked seventh in the conference in scoring (20.7) and rebounding (8.6), and averages 4.4 assists.
Tyler Brimhall, who averaged 13.3 points and 5.6 rebounds, placed on the region’s second-team. Forward Jarod Greene leads the conference in field goal percentage (67.8) while averaging 10.6 points and 5.6 rebounds, and forward Jalen Burkett was named the region Defensive Player of the Year while averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Western Region first-teamers Spencer Sweet (16.9 points, 4.3 rebounds) and Brandon Cotton (14.6 points, 4.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds) lead the Devils’ offense. Wesley Gilbert (9.3 points, 5.5 rebounds), Donald Scott (8.3 points, 5.7 rebounds), and Kyle Daugherty (7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds) are also keys to the Devils’ success.
“We’ll need to play defense, rebound and find ways to make stops,” Polis said. “We want to play up to the standards we’ve played for the last 16 years by putting our best foot forward.”
Editor’s Note: Due to the late start time of the LCC men’s game Saturday night, the game story will not make our press deadline. Please see tdn.com/sports for the recap.