Say what you want about the overall weakness in West Coast college basketball this season – well-deserved criticism by the way – but there is a national champion in 2012.
Take a bow Oregon Tech!
I received a text message at around 9:30 Tuesday night from Mike Pisan, an assistant coach with the Hustlin’ Owls, letting me know that the Klamath Falls, Ore., team captured the NAIA Division II Championship for the third time in the past eight seasons with a 63-46 victory over top-ranked Northwood (Fla.) University in Branson, Mo.
The win was the 971st of head coach Danny Miles’ career at Oregon Tech.
We chatted for about 30 minutes shortly after the text arrived and he was still in a celebratory mood as the clock neared the midnight hour in Missouri.
“The kids from both teams came out slow, possibly in awe of playing for the national championship,” Pisan said. “But our guys played really well in the second half.”
Senior forward Scotty Riddle started Oregon Tech’s second-half surge, which saw the second-ranked but eventual champs score 18 points in the first eight minutes after scoring just 18 points in the first half. But they held Northwood to 19 points.
Oregon Tech won five games during the six-day tournament, ending the season with a 34-4 record, the most wins in school history.
The 46 points by coach Rollie Massimino’s Seahawks marked the lowest point total in the 21-year history of the tournament. Oregon Tech joins Bethel (Ind.) as the only schools with three national titles.
An Owls season that resulted in the most wins included a devastating setback – the death of 20-year-old Nathan Maddox, a redshirt sophomore who reportedly took his own life in February.
“It was emotionally draining,” Miles said of Maddox’s death. “In fact, I even asked the kids if they wanted to finish the season. The way the guys handled it, they played their tails off. Nathan was a great young man. We decided to honor him with the way we played.”