The No. 5-ranked Lewis-Clark State College men’s basketball team learned on Wednesday night that it will play Rocky Mountain College in the semifinal round of the Frontier Conference Tournament.
Fifth-seeded Rocky Mountain advances to face the top-seeded Warriors after upsetting fourth-seed Westminster College 75-68 in the opening round on Wednesday.
“I give them a lot of credit for going down to Westminster and winning last night,” said second-year LCSC head coach Brandon Rinta. “That’s not an easy thing to do. I know our guys are not going to be looking past them by any means.”
The semifinals contest will be held on Saturday at 7 p.m., PT, at the LCSC Activity Center. Ticket prices, as set by the conference, are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and children age five and under are free. The cost to sit in the reserved section is $10. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office on the second floor of the Activity Center during business hours. For more information call 208-792-2675.
The game will pit the Warriors against a team they split with during the regular season. LCSC fell to the Bears 89-80 on the road on Jan. 12, but defeated them 73-66 at home on Feb. 16.
“They have given us everything that we can handle both times we’ve played them,” said Rinta. “From handing us our first loss of the season at their place to a big-time battle at our place a couple weeks ago.”
Rocky used an 11-for-22 mark from the outside to outpace the Warriors in the first meeting, while the second game featured grueling defense and was very close down the stretch.
“Really nothing has changed,” said Rinta. “They’re still the most talented team in the conference and capable of beating anybody in the nation on any given night.”
The Bears, which went 9-7 in league play and are now 22-8 overall, are led by 6-foot-6 forward Jeremy Nicolas. The product of Villepinte, France, is averaging 16 points per game and recorded a double-double in both games against LCSC. He had 18 points and 11 rebounds in the first game, and 16 points and 10 rebounds in the second.
“He’s a load inside,” Rinta said about Nicolas. “He’s one of the best players in the conference and our post players are just going to have to work hard defensively to try to keep the ball out of his hands.”
The Bears also pose a threat on the outside as they rank No. 26 in the nation in 3-pointers made.
“They’re really good inside, but they’ve got some talented guards as well. They’re just an extremely dangerous and offensively explosive team.”
Rocky Mountain comes with a history of being especially dangerous during the postseason. The Billings, Mont., school, led by 13th-year coach Bill Dreikosen, came out of nowhere to win the national championship in 2009, and has notched a number of upsets the last few seasons in the conference tournament.
Lewis-Clark State, which enjoyed a program-best 18-0 start, went 11-4 during league play to claim the regular season conference title and stands at 26-4 overall.
The Warriors have solid depth at each position and are led in scoring by 6-foot-6 forward P.J. Bolte. The senior, who was named the Frontier Player of the Week on Monday, is averaging 17 points and six rebounds per game.
Bolte and fellow post player Danny Marshall played key roles in the Warriors’ win over Rocky last time. Bolte had 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists; and Marshall added 17 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks. Both players will be counted on for solid efforts on Saturday.
To be successful against Rocky and throughout the postseason, LCSC will also need its guards to continue to hit shots from the outside. Junior Jacob Champoux has proven himself more than capable as he leads the nation with a 54.9 percent mark from 3-point range this season.
If the Warriors defeat the Bears they’ll host the championship on Tuesday at 7 p.m.