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Pioneers Men's Basketball Team Makes the Playoffs

Morgan Chinnock, March 21, 2007
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Fluorescent lights high above, people cheering on metal bleachers, a score board reading 0-0, and two red hoops looming on either side of the court.  This is what met the PUC Pioneers men’s basketball team as they walked onto the court for their first game in the California Pacific Conference playoffs.  Not only was it the first game of the 2006-07 season playoffs, it was the first playoff game for the men’s basketball team since joining the NAIA Division II and California Pacific Conference.

Many factors contributed to the Pioneers reaching the playoffs this year. Scott Blunt, the team’s head coach, says that reaching the playoffs was the team’s goal from the beginning of the season. “We accomplished our goal,” says Blunt, “It was a successful year, and we have something to build on for next year.” Although the Pioneers lost the first playoff game to Simpson University, they ended the season proudly in the standing of sixth seed out of eight.

In addition to keeping the playoffs as their goal, Blunt says the team was made up of exceptional players.  He credits the team’s success to the respect they had for each other and the senior players’ leadership.  Several of the players are at a place in their careers that they could have really shown off their skills, but Blunt says they “put individual success on the back burner for the greater good of the team.”

This does not mean individual players didn’t shine, though.  At the end of the season, Senior Dustin Comm was named to the California Pacific Conference All-Conference Team, distinguishing himself with assists, steals, and points. Comm was also named Cal-Pac Player of the Week for the last week of regular play. Another senior that stood out in this year’s season was Matt Bahlke. He led the nation in field goal percentage by making 67% of the shots he tried.

While the team will miss their three graduating seniors—Comm, Bahlke, and Darrin Thurber—they have many strong players that pulled their own weight this season.  Coach Blunt says sophomore Dustin Miracle, juniors Benny Gipson and Ayotade Adeogun, and freshmen Brandon Monty and Kameron Barnes provided strong elements to the team’s success.  Only three out of 13 team members are graduating, so that leaves ten potential returnees. Blunt says, “Our chemistry this year was just great. I’d like to return all ten.” While three seniors are leaving, Blunt is confident: “The future of the team looks really good.”

When questioned if his coaching provided the backbone for the team’s success, Blunt says, “Players play, coaches coach. I did my job in practice—they did their job in games.” He says that he did make some adjustments in his philosophy this year because he knew his players could handle it. One of the main thrusts of this philosophy was for the team to keep playing defense even though, as Blunt says, they “could outrun some people on the court.” Blunt also says he tried to get the team to focus on the next play instead of on their mistakes from the last one.

A final factor that contributed to the men’s basketball team’s success was student body support. Blunt says that PUC does not offer many athletic scholarships, but that doesn’t matter much when they have great support from the college community. “The support from the student body was awesome this year,” says Blunt.

Pacific Union College is one of ten institutions that make up the Cal Pac Conference. As a member of the NAIA, the PUC Pioneers compete in the conference in women’s volleyball, men’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, and men’s and women’s basketball.