Warhawks 'return' to Salem
By Jason Galleske
|Chris Davis and Co. cut the
nets down at UW-Whitewater and hope to do so again in
UW-Whitewater athletics photo by Andrew Smith
UW-Whitewater and Salem have been synonymous for the past seven winters for football.
The Warhawks will now enjoy Virginia in the springtime, however, as Whitewater will make an appearance in the Division III men’s basketball Final Four.
“We’re a big football school, so it’s been nice to have support from the football team and other sports actually come out and support us,” Whitwater guard Cody Odegaard said. “It's been wild.”
The football team has been to the last seven national championships and won four, including three straight. It’s been a while for the hoopsters. The Warhawks haven’t been to the Final Four since 1989, where Whitewater captured the school’s second championship.
“We're doing something special right now,” senior center Chris Davis said. “We’ve got an opportunity to play for a national championship if we can.”
Before that would be a reality, Whitewater has to get by third-ranked MIT (24-1) Friday at 8 p.m. in a national semifinal. The Warhawks are not celebrating yet.
“It's pretty intense,” Whitewater coach Pat Miller said. “All of us under belief that we still have a lot of work to do. The way we've approached as a team is to emphasize advancing. You want to be excited, feel the accomplishment (but) we try to instill in them that there is additional work to do. You never want to see a team celebrate too hard when there are more games ahead.”
Defense has been one of the mainstays of the Warhawks, even if the offense is having an off night. Whitewater runs an intense man-to-man defense with plenty of help when needed.
“All year we talked about our phrase, ‘Do what we do,’ ” Whitewater coach Pat Miller said. “Our defensive execution is sound within our principles.”
One of the many reasons Whitewater has its eyes on the prize.
“I think there's a lot of things,” Miller said. “It’s best team we've had in quite a while. Night-in and night-out we’ve defended well. This team has had very little ego.”
Night in and night out people know where the recently named D3hoops.com West Region Player of the Year is. Davis averages 22.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
“No one on team has a ego, that really helps,” Davis said. “Whatever way we can get it done. We don’t worry about stats, we try to play as a team and try to accomplish the goal at hand.”
Such as topping Virginia Wesleyan 76-62 in the sectional final Saturday at Whitewater.
In the first half, it was little known Cody Odegaard, who scored 17 points in the first half, including draining his first five three-pointers.
“It's been a great run with this group,” Miller said. “We’ve really improved as season goes along, we needed guys to step up and get hot and we certainly had a lot of guys do that.”
For the season, Odegaard averages just 7.7 points per game.
“I kind of had a slump shooting,” Odegaard said. “People on the team kept picking me up. (Saturday) I got left open they were falling, kind of confidence factor I would say.”
And it opened up Davis, who only scored 10 in the first half, but exploded for 23 in the second half. Davis made his mark against one-on-one matchups inside, something he rarely sees.
“I took advantage of that on Saturday,” Davis said. “That definitely got me going, to be able to dominate in post, when they’re sitting behind you.”
The chance of that is probably unlikely when the Warhawks battle Friday, but regardless they want to make sure just getting to Salem is the ending.
“I think there is a lot of business, we still have two games left,” Odegaard said. “We’ve got to keep pushing. The season's not over, we made it to Salem, but we've still got to play there too.”
And maybe that would one more trophy for football-basketball bragging rights.
“It would be great,” Davis said. “That would be something big. (But) they have a couple on us. We have a lot more work to do.”