Men’s Basketball Faces Umpqua in NWAC Championships, Capping Eggers’ Coaching Era
The Bellevue College men’s basketball team begins postseason play by ending an era.
The Bulldogs face Umpqua in the Sweet 16 of the NWAC Championship Tournament on Thursday, March 9 at noon at Everett Community College as BC head coach Jeremy Eggers trades his courtside seat for the athletic director position.
Eggers, in his 14th season as head coach and an assistant athletic director the past three years, replaces Bill O’Conner, who retired in January after 14 years as athletic director.
“I’m sad that I won’t be coaching anymore,” Eggers said. “This is my last hurrah here this weekend, and potentially next weekend. It’s been pretty emotional for me telling my guys. I just told them on Sunday during the selection show when we sat together and watched that. 24 years of coaching is how I built my identity and kind of who I am, but this is a challenge that I’m excited for.”
The Bulldogs (8-6 NWAC, 18-11 overall), tied for third in the North Region, but earned the No. 3 seed in the region. Umpqua (10-6, 18-9) is the No. 2 seed from the South Region. BC defeated Umpqua 75-69 in an early December tournament encounter.
The Bulldogs are led by first-team all-North Region sophomore guards Jordan Muir-Keung, who averages 16.5 points per game, and Taylor Freeman, who averages 16.2, but four others average at least seven points. Freshman center Max Tilden leads with 6.7 rebounds per game.
Freshman guard Trey Nelson was named to the North Region all-defensive team.
“Jordan Muir-Keung and Taylor Freeman have been our leading scorers, but we’ve had any one of seven guys step up and give us games at different times when we needed them,” Eggers said.
BC, which has only two players on the roster 6-5 or taller, have had 11 games decided by five or fewer points.
Emblematic of the Bulldogs resiliency was a 72-70 victory at Everett in mid-February when they overcame a 22-point halftime deficit.
“It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been part of something like that,” Eggers said. “Even at halftime, we told our guys, if we just make some shots a little tougher for them, and we knock down some shots, that we can get back in it. Sure enough, that’s the exact formula that took place. We started hitting a few shots. I mean, we were 0-for-15 from the 3-point line until the last minute and then hit two of them to win the game. That’s just kind of been the way season’s gone.”
“We haven’t quit, we’re in every game, we’ve had a chance every game,” he said.
Umpqua, led by guard Grant Ellison, the South Region MPV and freshman of the year, was 14-4 at one point, capped by a six-game winning streak, but closed the season by losing three of its last four.
Ellison averages 20.2 points per game, while shooting 51 percent, including 44 percent from 3-point range. Sophomore Jack Danhoff, 14.7 points and 9.5 rebounds, was a second team all-region pick and named to the all-defensive team. 6-10 sophomore Jouvon Edison was the South Region defensive player of the year.
“They’re playing really good basketball right now,” Eggers said. “They’ve got the freshman of the year on their team who’s MVP of the league, they’ve got the defensive player of the year in the league at 6-10. They’ve got everything. We’ll definitely have our hands full, but we’re excited to have the opportunity to compete in the tournament.”
Thursday’s winners advance to the Elite 8 on Friday, March 10 at the Walt Price Student Fitness Center at Everett. The men’s semifinals and championship will be played Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19 at Everett.