College of Idaho men claim Cascade crown

Coyotes beat Northwest Christian 83-59 in title game.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comMarch 5, 2014 

CALDWELL — Josh Wilson, the point guard Scott Garson called and recruited to Caldwell before he officially got the College of Idaho coaching job, was going to get his man.

Garson knew it, too.

He just asked that he at least be able to take off his jacket before Wilson gave him a post-game celebratory Gatorade shower after the Coyotes claimed their first Cascade Conference Tournament title since 2004 with an 83-59 drubbing of Northwest Christian.

“They all know I like my fancy UCLA jacket,” said Garson, a former Bruins assistant in his first year at College of Idaho. “I wore a good one.”

Said Wilson: “It’s a nice jacket. I didn’t want to get it wet.”

With the jacket off, Wilson doused Garson with cold water, right there on the court.

“We were going to get him in the locker room,” Wilson said, “but why not make it enjoyable for everyone?”

The season certainly has been an enjoyable one for Garson, Wilson and the rest of the Coyote basketball community. College of Idaho, ranked third in the NAIA Division II poll, won the regular-season crown, completed its season 17-0 at home and enters next week’s 32-team national tournament on a 15-game winning streak.

The Coyotes are expected to be one of the top seeds in the national tournament when the bracket is announced Wednesday evening. College of Idaho, which won the national title in 1996, has not been in the event since 2007.

“To finish the season at home with a win like this, it just gives us great momentum to continue,” junior guard Sydney Donaldson said. “We know we’re not done yet. We’ve got a long journey ahead.”

The Coyotes (28-5) followed a familiar formula in finishing off Northwest Christian (18-12) — a second-half surge. College of Idaho, which plays 10 players more than 10 minutes per game and pushes the tempo, has overwhelmed teams in the second half all year.

The Coyotes led 35-29 at halftime and 44-36 early in the second half when Garson called a timeout to scream at his team. He was upset with their complaints toward the referees — and he let them know.

“That’s the first time those guys have ever seen that. But I was really, really disappointed in the fact that we were worried about a call or two we didn’t get from the referees instead of playing ball, and it burned us,” Garson said. “… Our guys responded really, really well to that. They haven’t seen me animated like that in a timeout all year.”

College of Idaho went on a 17-0 run after the timeout, salting away the title and setting off a net-cutting party.

Senior forward Antonio Garrett led the Coyotes with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Demetrius Perkins added 15 points, and Wilson had 14 points and five assists.

Students, who have returned to stands this year after several lackluster seasons, greeted Garson and the players at midcourt after the game. They cheered, “cut that net, cut that net,” as players took turns trimming a souvenir piece of netting.

Garson, as is custom, went last. He waved the net and chanted, “let’s go Yotes, let’s go Yotes.”

The students responded with a line of their own: “Ain’t done yet.”

There are still games to play. Still nets to cut. Still post-game baths to deliver.

“As long as we keep doing what we’re doing, only good things will happen,” Donaldson said.

His jacket safely put away and his shirt and tie covered by a “Cascade Conference Tournament champions” T-shirt, Garson tried to soak in the moment.

“Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something like this?” he asked as the party carried on behind him. “I don’t care where you are or what level you go to, this was fun.”

Brian Murphy: 377-6444

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