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Panthers to Play Tonight for Conference Title
Photos and Story by Abe Proctor
This improbable, rags-to-riches, dream season continues for the PCC men’s basketball team. With a 96-82 win over the Skagit Valley Cardinals, the PCC Panthers are in the finals of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Tournament in Kennewick, Wash. The Panthers play Pierce College tonight (March 4) at 8 p.m. for the conference championship.
The championship game will be streamed live on the Internet, and for those who would like to see it alongside fellow Panthers fans, the game will be shown live at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in the Lloyd Center.
PCC opened the NWAACC Tournament on March 1 with a narrow 56-54 victory over Lower Columbia CC. They followed up with another nail-biter, a 1-point, 77-76 win over Bellevue in the second round.
Not bad for a team that before this year had never reached the post-season.
“It feels wonderful!” sophomore Carl Appleton said after the Panthers’ playoff-clinching home with over Chemeketa Community College on Feb. 19. “This is the first time it’s ever been done – bringing the playoffs to PCC. It’s a beautiful thing, man!”
PCC entered the NWAACC Tournament as the No. 1 seed, and as co-champions of the conference’s South division.
“We’re going up there with the intention of winning the whole thing,” said second-year Head Coach Tony Broadous before the tournament. “Only the best teams will be there, but we have a solid group of men and we’re confident we can win.”
Tonight’s championship game represents a dramatic reversal in the fortunes of PCC Basketball, which to this point has been relegated to spectator status during the post-season. The turnaround began last year when Broadous and his longtime assistants, Tyrone White and Aaron Bell, arrived and made it known that the program now faced higher expectations.
“The groundwork was laid last year,” Broadous said. “We refused to be defined by what had happened before. And this year, we added a few key men who enabled us to take the team to the next level.”
Foremost among the priorities instilled by Broadous and his staff was a commitment to academic excellence. With the help of two dedicated volunteer study hall tutors, Jay Klusky and Dr. Bradley Muhammad, the team buckled down, hit the books, and didn’t lose a single player this season to academic ineligibility.
“We really work hard on academics, and on making the guys understand that basketball is a short piece in life,” added Broadous. “It’s lots of fun and it’s really rewarding, but in the end it’s two games a week for a brief time while they’re young. Getting an education is far more important.”
This commitment to academic achievement is mirrored on PCC’s women’s team as well. Across both teams, the players maintained an average GPA of 3.0, including four perfect 4.0s on the women’s team.
The team’s new attitude, along with the coaching and mentoring of Broadous, White, and Bell, is paying dividends. The Panthers are poised to reach greater heights than they’ve ever before attained.
“I can’t wait to see what’s next,” said sophomore C.J. Easterling after the win over Chemeketa. “We’re ready.”
Are the Panthers ready to become champions? We will know, one way or the other, before the night is out.