Oct. 4, 2016
BELLINGHAM, Wash. --- -
It was a decision that Western Washington University director of athletics Lynda Goodrich did not want to make. Well-known for her decisiveness, she had been dreading this possibility for the last three weeks.
Both the Viking men's and women's basketball teams were having incredible seasons and had finished No.1 in their respective final NCAA Division II West Regional rankings for the 2012-13 season. That meant they could host regionals, giving them a much-desired and well-deserved home court advantage where neither had lost during the regular season.
Normally this would be great news, but there was a major stumbling block.
At the time, NCAA rules stated that a school could not host both regionals concurrently. Either the WWU men or women would have to go on the road, most likely at the site of the No.2 seed, a huge disadvantage.
While the NCAA II men's basketball national committee was open to discussing the idea of WWU playing host to both regionals, the women's committee was adamantly opposed. And when announcement day arrived on March 10, the policy remained in place.
Thus an impossible choice for Goodrich.
"It was a no-win situation with the men being the defending national champion and winning their first 24 games, and the women taking 23 of 24 games during one stretch of their campaign," said Goodrich. "Either way it went, it would be a slap in the face to whichever team did not host."
How then to decide this perplexing situation?
That Sunday afternoon, Goodrich asked both coaches to come to her office on campus at Sam Carver Gymnasium. Tony Dominguez, in his first year as men's head coach after being a Viking assistant for 17 seasons, was on a recruiting trip and unable to be there. Carmen Dolfo, who was in her 22nd season directing the women's program, arrived at the Carver Gym parking lot at the same time as Goodrich.
"Carmen said that the only fair thing I could do was flip a coin," recalled Goodrich. "I said that I'd been thinking about it for the last couple weeks and felt that was about the only way I felt we could go. A great case could be made for either team."
"I figured a coin flip would be fair," said Dolfo. "The whole thing stunk."
So, with two other staff members present, Goodrich flipped the coin, a quarter. She had asked Dominguez to make the call during an earlier phone conversation. He had called "Heads." When Goodrich raised her hand off the table, "Tails" was showing.
Dolfo, while happy that her team would host, was almost apologetic, feeling badly for Dominguez. Goodrich called Tony and told him of the result. Dominguez' heart fell, seeing capacity crowds of 2,500 rabid fans at Carver Gym, slipping away and a long trip to most likely No.2 ranked Cal Poly Pomona.
"It was bittersweet," Dolfo said. "Because you are super happy for your team, but at the same token the men had worked just as hard as we did to get there. And there was sadness because I knew that Lynda would take a lot of heat. So, it was like I feel horrible, but I'm happy."
A little while later, Goodrich called the NCAA and said that WWU would host the women's regional.
"I remember that there was dead silence at the other end," she said. "And finally they go, `Really.' And I went on to make the argument again that I felt this was a terrible situation to put an institution in, that I felt we were perfectly capable of hosting both, that we had made arrangements so that we could do so, and that we had already done all of the pre-planning and were ready to go if they gave us a chance. They said that they would get back to us."
But there was no further communication, and early that evening the NCAA webcast announcing the regional pairings began.
"The women's bracket was announced first and the asterisk for the host is next to Western," said Steve Card, who was the WWU associate athletic director for business and financial affairs at that time (now in fourth year as WWU Director of Athletics). "The next half hour there was the men's announcement, but there is no asterisk next to any school.
"What's going on? ... So, I texted the NCAA and asked what was happening? The answer I got back was simply, `Hold tight. We will let you know within an hour.' That's when I thought there was a very real possibility that we still could host both. We still had a chance for this."
An hour later, a decision was reached by the NCAA. Western would host both regionals, something that had happened just one other time in NCAA II, many years before.
"In looking back, I believe it worked out in our favor to pick the women because it forced their (NCAA) hand," said Goodrich. "Because I know in my heart that if I had said we were going to host the men, it would have been done and the women would have had to go somewhere else."
"Part of the reason I believe the women's committee was against it was that they were afraid the women would play second fiddle. That they wouldn't get the emphasis they should get. And, frankly, I have to tell you that when I went to San Antonio (site of Elite Eight), I met with some of the women's committee and told them how offended I was. I had spent my whole career supporting women athletics and why would they not think that I would make sure that didn't happen."
Meanwhile, the WWU men's basketball team had been put through an emotional rollercoaster.
"During the process, we were very disappointed, but then that turned to excitement and finally into a very positive thing of us hosting both," said Dominguez. "It worked out well for everyone."
As soon as the NCAA gave the okay, the work really began for Western. With both tournaments at one site, some changes had to be made.
"We had set things up for one tournament, but we began making calls," recalled Card. "There was something else going on in Bellingham around that time, so with that and our forecast of one tournament, most of the hotel rooms were booked. We had figured if this happened that we would try to get something down in Everett, the next closest city that would have the capacity to host this. And we found a hotel with the capacity and the availability to make it happen for us."
"Some compromises would have to be made. Whichever gender was in Everett would have to drive an hour to the facility for practice, but that would only be for the first part of the tournament and then as teams were eliminated we would be able to accommodate both. And then the other compromise, because of the staggered event, one gender would have to practice at Whatcom Community College (on the other side of Bellingham) because the main site was tied up with games. So, the men's compromise was that they would be housed in Everett and the women's compromise was that they would have to practice on another court."
Fourteen games were played in four days with one day off in between. Four games took place on Friday, March 15; Saturday, March 16; and Monday, March 18; and the two championship contests took place on Tuesday, March 19.
"It took a tremendous amount of organization and cooperation to make it happen," Card said. "It was a very, very well-run event given the circumstances and we received a tremendous amount of accolades for the job that was done.
"Hosting one regional is a tremendous undertaking, but hosting two concurrently was a pretty incredible feat ... I believe everyone was pretty proud of what we pulled off. The fact that both our teams won was icing on the cake. You want to have your teams do well, but you also want to put your best foot forward when you are hosting anything and we accomplished that. It was an interesting week to say the least."
"So many stepped up, hotels in Everett, Burlington and Bellingham, literally on just four days notice. It took a lot of people saying we are going to help you and we're going to make this happen, that allowed it to happen. A lot of people stepped up internally and externally which really made it a success."
What also may have helped WWU in its quest to host both regionals was its previous experience as a host institution. The Viking men had been a regional host in 2001, 2005, 2009 (sub), 2010, and 2012; and the women in 2006.
With the home court edge, both Viking squads went to work and won their respective regionals. And they reached the semifinals at their Elite Eight tourneys, where both of them lost to the eventual national champion.
The men finished 31-3 and were ranked No.4 nationally in their final poll. The women ended up 29-4 and were rated No.3 nationally in their final poll.
Western basketball had a combined 60-7 record in 2012-13, a winning percentage of 89.6, and was undefeated in 33 home games (men 17-0 and women 16-0).
And another plus was legislation being passed by the NCAA that if this scenario happened again, the idea of one school hosting two full regionals would not happen. Instead, there would be split regionals with that school playing host to four men's teams and four women's teams, with the highest remaining seed from both playing host to the championship game.
"To get a chance to go to the Elite Eight and be denied would have been just criminal," said Goodrich in retrospect. "I'm glad the NCAA came to the conclusion that it did. And now they've changed the policy so that it won't happen to anyone again."
2012-13 WWU men's basketball team
2012-13 WWU Men's Basketball Review:
Vikings post best win percentage in school history, tie record for most wins
WWU gets to NCAA II final four as defending national champions
Despite having each of its games circled on the opponent's schedule as the defending national champion, the 2012-13 WWU men's basketball team enjoyed one of the greatest seasons in school history.
The Vikings posted a 31-3 record, the 91.2 winning percentage setting a school record and their 31 wins tying the mark set a year ago, and ranked No.4 nationally in the final National Association of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division II Top 25 poll. They reached the NCAAII final four after winning the West Regional crown and the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season title with a 17-1 record, the best in league history.
WWU defeated No.8 Florida Southern, 96-82, in the national quarterfinals at historic Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, before falling 107-97 to eventual national champion and No.7 Drury MO in the semifinals. That loss ended a 10-game national tournament winning streak for the Vikings, who cut a 24-point deficit to six with just under five minutes remaining.
The Vikings reached the Elite Eight with a 62-58 victory over No.2 Seattle Pacific in the championship game of the West Regional before a crowd of 2,521 at Carver Gym where they were unbeaten in 17 games. Prior to that, WWU defeated Chaminade HI, 102-87, in the opening round, and Cal State San Bernardino, 86-77, in a regional semifinal.
After opening with exhibition losses at NCAA I Washington and Duke, WWU won its first 24 regular-season games and extended a two-year winning streak to 30 before tasting defeat. Both the start and streak broke school records that had stood for 41 years.
"Our team showed a ton of heart, but we had a huge target on our back and it felt like an us-against-the-world mentality every night," said WWU first-year head coach Tony Dominguez, a finalist for the Clarence "Big House" Gaines national Coach of the Year and GNAC co-Coach of the Year. "I believe it may have gotten to us in the end."
"If it had been any other year and we had gone 31-3 and gotten to the final four, everyone would have thought that we had an absolutely phenomenal season, breaking records that had stood for over 40 years, and certainly we had a great deal to be proud of ... But it was a little frustrating for us, losing to a team (in the national semifinals) that we had already beaten and in a game in which we did not play like we normally do."
Dominguez had been a Viking assistant for 17 seasons before being handed the head coaching reins last summer when Brad Jackson took an assistant coaching position at the University of Washington. Dominguez set a NCAA II record by winning his first 24 games.
Remarkably, WWU had the same starting lineup for all 34 games.
Senior guard John Allen was a first-team Division II Bulletin and a third-team Daktronics All-American as well as the Daktronics West Region and GNAC Player of the Year. Also a first-team NABC West All-District pick and a regional all-tourney choice, he averaged 17.1 points and 4.1 assists a game and had 27 double-figure scoring games.
"John had a phenomenal senior season for us," said Dominguez. "He was a clutch player for us the entire year and did a great job of managing games for us."
Allen finished with 1,480 career points, seventh among WWU leaders. He accomplished that in three seasons, the total being the highest of any Viking not playing four years. He had seven 30 or more point games, two shy of the school record, with a high of 43, the most ever by a WWU player at Carver Gym, as a sophomore.
Allen also ranked 12th in career assists with 348, 14th in steals with 157, and his free-throw percentage of 89.4 (244-of-273) was a school record.
Senior forward Paul Jones was a Daktronics honorable mention All-American and a first-team Daktronics West Region and NABC West District all-star and all-GNAC pick. He averaged 14.4 points, shooting 58.4 percent (192-of-329) from the field, and 6.6 rebounds.
Jones had six double-doubles in points and rebounds and reached double-figure points a team-best 28 times.
"Paul gave us great quiet leadership," Dominguez said. "He was willing to do whatever it took for us to win, whether it was rebounding, scoring or defense."
Junior guard Richard Woodworth, who reached double figures in scoring 20 times, averaged 11.1 points. A second-team all-league choice, he shot 43.8 percent, 42-of-96) from 3-point range. Woodworth, the West Regional Most Outstanding Player, averaged 15.4 points in the five national tournament games.
"Rich was our `Mr. Do Everything,'" said Dominguez. "He's tough, athletic, and one of the most versatile players in the country."
Rounding out the starting five were senior center Chris Mitchell, who averaged 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds, and junior forward Austin Bragg, a transfer from Clark CC, who averaged 9.1 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds. Both players received all-conference honorable mention.
Bragg had a GNAC and team-best eight double-doubles in points and rebounds, including a 20-point, 11-rebound effort against Seattle Pacific on Feb. 2 and a 17-point, 14-rebound performance versus Florida Southern.
Mitchell was a first-team College Sports Information Directors of America Capital One Academic All-District honoree and a three-time GNAC academic all-star. He finished ninth among WWU career leaders in blocked shots with 91 and 11th in rebounds with 541.
Bragg had a team-high 43 blocked shots and Mitchell 42.
"Chris was very durable and really understood what we needed to do to win and communicated that in a very quiet and effective way," Dominguez said. "Austin had some big shoes to fill and he did a great job of doing that. He's one of the better inside players we've had."
Outstanding contributions off the bench came from senior guard Rico Wilkins, who averaged 8.6 points on 42.2 percent 3-point shooting (49-of-116); senior guard Cameron Severson, who averaged 8.2 points and 4.5 rebounds, shooting 58.3 percent from the floor (105-180) and 87.8 percent (65-of-74) at the line; and sophomore forward Anye Turner, a transfer from South Puget Sound CC, who had 41 blocks and hit 59.3 percent (48-of-81) of his field goals.
Severson had 16 double-figure point games and Wilkins 12, with a high of 27 on 8-of-13 3-point accuracy against Drury at nationals.
"Rico was one of the quickest players in the country and one of the best defenders we've had, who also had uncanny offensive explosiveness," said Dominguez. "Anye has a really high intensity level and brought a presence we didn't have in the starting lineup, and Cameron was our glue guy, who was always in the right place with constant hustle and a calming influence."
The Vikings ranked among the top 10 nationally in four team statistical categories, being fifth in scoring margin (15.2), seventh in field-goal percentage (50.5), eighth in blocked shots (5.4) and ninth in scoring offense (84.5).
WWU appeared on national television two times, both on the CBS Sports Network, and twice was on regional telecasts (ROOT Sports Network). That gave the Vikings four national TV appearances (three on CBS Sports Network and one on CBS Sports) and three regional telecasts over the last two seasons.
The Vikings were ranked among the Top 10 in all 16 weekly polls, breaking the school record of 10 set during the 2005-06 campaign. Earlier in the season, they matched the school's highest ever rating of No.2 six times. WWU also was ranked No.2 on one occasion during the 2005-06 season.
2012-13 WWU women's basketball team
2012-13 WWU Women's Basketball Review:
Vikings battle to national semifinals in emotional season
WWU finishes 29-4, wins GNAC and West Regional titles
By any measure 2012-13 was a terrific season for the WWU women's basketball team.
Led by four seniors and coach Carmen Dolfo, who was named CaptainU NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association West Region Coach of the Year, the Vikings posted a 29-4 record and for just the second time in school history won the West Regional title and reached the NCAA II national semifinals, where they fell to eventual champion Ashland OH, 66-54.
Along the way, WWU, ranked No.3 in the final USA Today Top 25 Poll, posted the second-most victories for a season in school history, went undefeated at Carver Gym (16-0), and won both the GNAC regular-season and tournament titles, claiming the regular season crown with a 17-1 mark, and defeating Simon Fraser in the GNAC tourney championship, 60-40.
As the regional host, WWU defeated Academy of Art, 70-50; Cal State Monterey Bay, 71-63, and Simon Fraser, 75-58, in the final.
"It's funny, so many times, something could have changed, we had so many tight games that could have gone differently," said Dolfo, who directed the Vikings to the NCAA tournament for the 14th time in 15 years as a NCAA member. "But this group always found a way. It wasn't easy, there were lots of challenges."
After losing a pair of games in a northern California tournament in early December, the Vikings won 23 of their next 24. Eight of those games were won by six points or less, including a stretch of four out of five in GNAC play in mid-January.
"We peaked at the right time," said Dolfo. "We never stopped fighting hard and getting better."
The four seniors were center Britt Harris, guard Corinn Waltrip, and forwards Trishi Williams and Erika Ramstead.
Harris was named West Region Player of the Year and earned third-team all-America honors from Daktronics, and was an honorable-mention all-America selection by Division II Bulletin. She averaged a team-high 14.3 points a game and added 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, while shooting 58.7 percent (185-of-315) from the field, which ranked third nationally.
"Britt got better every year," said Dolfo. "She became a go-to scorer in the post, and she was a great leader."
Waltrip, like Harris a first-team all-GNAC and Daktronics all-West Region selection, averaged 12.9 points and 3.5 assists, shooting 42.0 percent (74-of-176) on 3-pointers which ranked ninth nationally. She had a career-high 36 points, the fourth highest total in school history, in an 80-76 overtime victory at Seattle Pacific, and averaged 21.0 points in the five NCAA tournament games, including 29 in a regional final triumph over Simon Fraser and 28 in the national semifinals.
Waltrip, who was named Most Outstanding Player at the West Regional, completed her career with 1,087 points, 19th in school history.
"Corinn stepped up at the end of the season and wasn't afraid of anything," Dolfo said. "She was a leader both on and off the court. You couldn't end a career any better than she did."
Williams contributed 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the team in assists (4.3) and steals (2.7), earning second-team all-GNAC recognition and being named MVP of the GNAC Tournament. She also became just the third WWU player in school history to record a triple-double.
"Trishi did all the intangibles, she was the hustle player we needed," Dolfo said. "She worked so hard. She made the difference and provided something we'd been missing."
Completing the starting lineup were junior forward Sarah Hill and sophomore guard Katie Colard. Hill contributed 6.2 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds, Colard averaged 7.6 points.
That five played in all 33 games, as did three key sophomore reserves - forward Sydney Donaldson, center Kayla Bernsen and guard Jenni White.
Donaldson averaged 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 50.3 percent (90-of-179) from the floor. Bernsen contributed 5.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. White averaged 3.9 points.
Also in reserve roles were sophomore guard Marcel Pounds, freshman forward Alisha Hathaway and junior guard Brandi Benner.
"We had great depth," said Dolfo. "So many different people stepped up at different times. If one person was off one night, somebody else picked it up."
Ramstead's contribution wasn't the one expected at the beginning of the year, but was invaluable nonetheless. She started the first eight games before an increasingly severe foot injury led to her season all but ending with surgery in mid-January. But for Ramstead, that pain wasn't as severe as that of losing her father to cancer on Jan. 15. The Vikings remembered Erik Ramstead throughout the season with an ER patch on their uniforms.
Despite it all, Erika Ramstead stayed with the team, and she completed her career by playing in the final seconds of the national semifinal.
"When we knew Erika was done playing, she didn't back away, if anything, she stepped forward toward the team," Dolfo said. "It says a lot about her character, she helped keep our team together."
It was that togetherness, as much as anything that a great WWU team will be remembered by.
By Paul Madison who served 48 years as sports information director at WWU from 1966 to 2015