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Wildcats look ahead to Boise

Both the Weber State University men’s and women’s basketball teams have regressed in 2018-19. However, the second season begins this week.

The Wildcats now shift their focus to CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, where the Big Sky Conference tournament is being held for the first time. The women’s team finished at the bottom of the Big Sky Conference 3–17 but feel as if they should not be counted out.

“We’ve gone through bumps and bruises, but I still believe we can mix things up and compete,” head coach Velaida Harris said. “It’s a matter of my players’ hearts and minds being into it. I believe we want to and believe we can.”

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Point guard Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman drives toward defender Blair Braxton(44). (Marissa Wolford / The Signpost)

The Lady Wildcats are the eleventh seed and will face a familiar foe in their opening matchup, the Eastern Washington Eagles. Weber State defeated EWU 70–66 on Mar. 9 in the regular-season finale. The first matchup between the two was also close.

“The first time we played (EWU) we lost by four,” Harris said. “And we get to play them again. I think we have the ability to beat them. I honestly don’t think anyone wants to play us.”

The ‘Cats and Eagles will tip off at 9 p.m. on Mar. 11. The winner will take on third-seeded Idaho the following day.

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Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman attempts a jump shot over a pair of Montana State defenders. (Marissa Wolford / The Signpost)

Of Weber State’s 17 conference losses, eight of them came by 10 points or fewer. Senior guard Emily Drake said her squad will embrace the role of underdogs.

“I think it’s kind of a fun mentality to go in and have no pressure,” Drake said. “We want to come in and surprise people. I think this team has the ability to do that because we have been in games this year. There is always a new energy in the tournament.”

The men’s team slumped through much of the second half of the season, losing eight of 11 contests from Jan. 26 to Mar. 9. The ‘Cats dropped a heartbreaker to Eastern Washington in the final game of the regular season by a score of 80–77.

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Jerrick Harding leaping for another basket. (Marissa Wolford / The Signpost) Photo credit: Marissa Wolford

Despite a tough end to the regular season, Wildcats head coach Randy Rahe said he believes his team has the ability to catch a second wind in Boise.

“I think we can reset, get our juices flowing, go in there and do some damn damage,” Rahe said. “I have great faith in this team.”

The loss to the Eagles shook up the Big Sky standings once again. EWU passed WSU and finished third, dropping the Wildcats to fourth. The ‘Cats will take on the Portland State Vikings on Mar. 14 at 2:30 p.m.

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Michal Kozak surrounded by Vandals players, looking for a teammate to pass to. (Marissa Wolford / The Signpost) Photo credit: Marissa Wolford

“We played really good basketball for some stretches (against EWU),” Rahe said. “We just need to go get at it.”

The men finished 11–9 in the Big Sky and possessed an overall record of 17–14. Defending tournament champion Montana again boasts the top seed. Only the winner of the conference tournament earns the rights to dance in the NCAA Tournament.

Weber State and Portland State played two ultra-competitive games in the regular season. The Wildcats narrowly won an overtime contest in Oregon on Jan. 12 before the Vikings came back from a 12-point deficit in the final 10 minutes, stunning the Dee Events Center crowd on Jan. 31.

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Jerrick Harding leaping for another one handed shot. (Marissa Wolford / The Signpost) Photo credit: Marissa Wolford

The tournament is being held in Boise this year after it was in Reno, Nevada for the last three seasons. Drake said she is looking forward to the change of scenery.

“I think Boise is going to be fresh and new and I know the city is great,” Drake said. “I’ve only been there once, but I’m excited to go back.”

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Emily Drake tries to recover ball for Wildcats. (Marissa Wolford / The Signpost)
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