It’s not exactly the 5-0 start they had last season.
But they’ll take it.
The PLNU men’s basketball team won their homecoming game – in which they never trailed – in com- manding fashion—91-76 against Cal State East Bay University last Satur- day to improve their record to 2-2 on the season. Senior Judd Welfringer, who came into the contest averaging 7.3 points per game, had overtaken his scoring average 11 minutes into the first half after scoring 10 points; Welfringer also shot 80 percent from the three- point line.
“It’s really easy when the rest of your team can all shoot and all play re- ally well,” said Welfringer. “Teams will scout for them and then overlook me a little bit. And that gives me a chance to shoot open shots, which is always nice. Especially like with Sam (Okhotin), Mike (Planeta) and Josh (Rodriguez) and all of them hitting shots—it makes it easier for the rest of us.”
The scoring was contagious for virtually the entire Sea Lion’s starting five. While Welfringer ended with a game-high of 22 points, a total of six Sea Lion players scored in double figures—a feat that has been done twice since the 2009 homecoming game.
“Well [with] the way we tend to spread people out and make cuts to the basket, it’s really hard to leave the guys outside the three [open],” said head coach Bill Carr. “We start a lineup where everyone can make a three, and that’s hard to deal with.
“Now as we substitute and get other groups in there, we got to have different plans and plays and different things. But when we spread you out, the ball’s moving and no one cares who’s making it—we’re hard to guard.”
The scoring outburst wasn’t merely a result of the myriad of shots taken by the Sea Lions. With a couple of seconds remaining in the first half, PLNU was leading by 16 points, shot six for 11 from behind the arc and 10 for 19 – 52.6 percent – from the field.
The hot shooting didn’t subside; however, as the team continued to torch the net from all over the court. In the second half, the team made all eight three-point attempts, which amounted to a team season-high 73.7 percent from the three-point line for the game.
“We’re not as relied upon individually, but we’re more spread out and balanced,” said Senior Sam Okhotin, who is leading the Sea Lions in scoring with 16.8 points per game. “Like, Judd is averaging seven a game, but he had twenty-something tonight, so it’s kind of like anyone can go off. Our big guy [Tanner Lancona] can shoot threes; I mean we’re so well-balanced that it’s really hard for any defense to guard everyone.”
After losing two All-PacWest players last season, –Hayden Lescault and Marek Klassen- head coach Bill Carr –who had 20 years of prior coaching experience before signing on with the Sea Lions in 2011- was given the difficult task to find other sources of consistent scoring. Last season, Lescault and Klassen accounted for 32.4 percent of the team’s scoring average per game.
For the time being, that doubt seems to have been quelled as the team has averaged about 70 points per game through four games this season—the same average they had last year.
“I don’t see this as a rebuilding year as much as a reloading year. You know, what we miss with Marek [Klas- sen] is his experience, his competitive- ness, his toughness and certainly the way he shot it,” said Carr. “And with Hayden [Lescault] we miss his play- making ability and his experience in big games, and Junior [Morgan] was a load inside. I think we got different types of players and we’re built a little different than last year. But I really like the upside of this group.”
The men’s basketball team will look to continue their hot streak as they host Young Harris University (1- 3) on Tuesday, November 24.
“I‘d like to praise the students for Wednesday night and tonight,” said Carr. “The students got to understand the more they’re here and the louder they are, the better our guys will play. It’s a thrill for our guys to play in front of them.”