Jimmies attempt to dance past Lewis-Clark in NAIA National Tourney
The Jimmies are working to go to 7-5 all time in the first round of the NAIA tournament.
The University of Jamestown is not afraid to travel on the road and play under the bright lights when the No. 6 seeded Jimmies face off against the No. 11-seeded Lewis-Clark State College Warriors in the opening round of the NAIA national tournament, according to head coach Danny Neville.
Neville said that the distance to get to this game doesn't scare his team because of their experiences all season traveling thousands of miles and to five different states for their away games this year.
“I think yesterday we practiced at Rocky (Mountain College),” Neville said. “Today, we’ll practice at Carroll (College). It’s just getting used to it. We have a lot of travel in the GPAC. We’re used to playing rowdy gyms, teams in Nebraska. So, we’re used to the travel and playing, we’ll be ready.”
After making it to the Elite 8 last year, the first team standing in the Jimmies' way is the Warriors at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, at the Carroll College PE Center in Helena, Montana.
The Jimmies (24-9) come into the game after losing in the GPAC championship game March 1 to Concordia University. The Warriors (22-10) lost in the Cascade Collegiate Conference semifinals Feb. 26 to Southern Oregon.
Despite the loss, the brighter lights of the tournament are what is driving the team, Jimmies guard Will Cordes said.
“The loss to Concordia was tough to swallow and it for sure sticks with us,” Cordes said. “However, I think the opportunity to go to nationals and being fired up and excited for each matchup is enough fuel to get us going.”
While the Jimmies return all but two key contributors from their Elite 8 run last year, the Warriors lost five players from their team that went to the championship game last season.
In opening round games all time, the Jimmies are 6-5, while the Warriors are 5-10.
This season the Warriors have grabbed 351 offensive rebounds, averaging 12 per game. While the Jimmies have given up 6.7 offensive rebounds per game, Neville said that the Jimmies will need to win the rebounding battle and fight to get points.
“I think one big key is defending the rim,” Neville said. “They have some size, keeping them off the glass. For us, being aggressive offensively. They’re good defensively but we just gotta be aggressive offensively.”
The Warriors' leading scorer, Kevin Baker, has been out since Jan. 28, with an injury, which Neville said does not affect his team’s preparations.
“We’ll be ready for him if he does play,” Neville said. “We’ll be ready for it if he doesn’t play. We got a game plan going, we have to focus on that and get the job done.”
On the other side, the Jimmies will have their full roster except for Devan Praska, who did not make the trip due to an injury.
This season, the Warriors are one of three teams that are first-time opponents for the Jimmies, alongside Hope International University who the Jimmies beat on Nov. 5 and Vanguard University, who the Jimmies beat on Nov. 6, 2021. The opportunity to play a new opponent is exciting, Neville said.
“We’ve played teams like that, Vanguard and Hope International this year,” Neville said. “I think it’s more so unique and cool for us. I think it’s that excitement like we’ve never seen these guys. We watch them on film and all that. You know that they’re good and they’re well coached. But it’s kind of a surprise when we get there. I think that’s always cool.”