While the fans screamed and yelled, flamingos in hand, it wasn’t enough to push the basketball Boxers to the next level.
Despite a strong finish, the 2013-2014 Pacific University men’s basketball team just nearly missed qualifying for the Northwest Conference Tournament as they finished with a 9-7 conference record.
In the preseason coaches’ poll, the Boxers were voted to finish fifth in the NWC and unfortunately for the Boxers, that’s exactly where they ended up.
Nevertheless, the teamproduced their second consecutive winning season with a 16-9 overall record highlighted by an early six-game win streak.
Leading the Boxers with an outstanding season was First Team All-NWC selection senior Daniel Zitani.
As the NWC’s top scorer, he also led the conference in points per game, field goals made, free throws made, rebounds per game and total rebounds.
Zitani was also a four-time NWC Men’s Basketball Student-Athlete of the Week.
He was also a selection to the D3Hoops.com Team of the Week for the week of Dec. 9-16.
Also ranked statistically near the top of the conference was junior Mitch Wettig.
Ranked not too far behind Zitani, Wettig finished third in rebounds per game as well as fifth in three-point percentage.
This season marked Pacific men’s basketball head coach Tim Cleary’s best record in his four-year tenure as well as his second 10-win season.
Carrying the momentum from a six-game win streak to finish with a 7-4 non-conference record, the Boxers entered NWC play with a 66-65 upset victory against Whitman on Jan. 4.
From there, the Boxers traded wins and losses and finished the first round of NWC play even with four wins and four losses.
In the second round, they bettered themselves.
With only one more win and one less loss but capped it off with victories in five of their last six games.
One of their end-of-the-season highlights was a close down-to-the-wire victory on Feb. 14 at Pacific Lutheran University.
Tied at 51 apiece with three seconds remaining, junior Landon Littlefield successfully connected with the go-ahead layup and ensuing free throw to complete the three-point play after drawing a foul.
After a steal off the inbound pass by Pacific’s Wettig, the Boxers sealed the deal with a 54-51 victory.
In the regular season finale on Feb. 22, the Boxers left it all out on the court with another upset in a 58-54 road victory against the eventual NWC Tournament runner ups University of Puget Sound.
With the season wrapped up, the Boxer-playing careers of seniors Zitani, Cameron Hayes, Budwesier Hawkins, Eric Moore and Connor Hurley are complete.
Hurley did not play this season due to injury.
Even so, he and each of the other seniors have made positive impacts both on and off the court during their time as a Boxer.
Zitani, Hawkins and Moore were recruited by Cleary and transferred to Pacific for the 2012-2013 season.
This year’s seniors are especially important to Cleary since it is his first official graduating class.
While Hayes was recruited by the previous coach and Hurley was a walk-on, they both have been a part of the team since their freshmen year.
They have been with Cleary since he first took over the program for the 2010-2011 season.