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Men’s basketball team wraps up stellar season

June 10, 2002

The 2001-02 Lewis & Clark men’s basketball team proved itself worthy of all the preseason hype, moving to the NCAA III Sectional Finals before falling to Carthage on its home floor in Kenosha, Wisconsin, 85-70. It was the second straight time the Pioneers’ season ended on the home court of the No. 1 ranked team in the country, but the first time a Lewis & Clark men’s basketball team has advanced to the NCAA III round-of-eight.

The advancement to the fourth round of the national tournament included a home win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, followed two days later with a hard-fought road win over Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. The Pioneers then traveled to Kenosha to face in-state conference champion Wisconsin-Oshkosh. That victory gave the Pios a school-record 24 triumphs for the season. It also gave coach Bob Gaillard the 399th win of his career. The next night saw Carthage end the season with the Pioneers’ sixth loss of the year.

The irony surrounding the team’s success is that 12 games into the season, it looked as though the preseason hype would be just that. The Pioneers stood at a disappointing 8-4, having dropped three of their last five games, including two of their first three in the Northwest Conference schedule. Pacific had just handed the Pios an 18-point drubbing in Forest Grove. Things looked even more grim in the next game when the Pioneers fell behind the last-place team in the league, George Fox, 10-0, and trailed the Bruins at the half. Then, Goliath woke up.

Lewis & Clark outscored George Fox 61-34 in the second half of that mid-January game, winning by 25 points, and went on to win 16 of 18 games. The only blemishes in that run were a five-point loss at Whitworth and the season-ender at Carthage. With the streak, the Pioneers finished 13-3 in the league, outright champions by one game over Willamette and Whitworth. Lewis & Clark would also gain a measure of revenge in the conference tournament championship game by defeating Whitworth, the only team that had swept the Pioneers during the regular season. The conference tournament championship assured the pioneers of their third straight trip to the NCAA III National Tournament, and the magical run to the round-of-eight.

While the team enjoyed remarkable success in 2001-02, individual honors also came the Pioneers’ way. For the second time in his career, Scott Davis ’02 was named the Northwest conference’s Player of the Year. (See related article.)

John Mietus ’03 also earned first-team all-NWC honors. For the second straight year he led the league in rebounding at 10.1 per game. Colin Oriard ’02 earned second-team all-conference. In addition, he was named to the NCAA Sectional all-tournament team. Jeff Auxier ’02 closed out his career as an honorable mention all-league selection.

—by Tom Galbraith

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