If Whitworth defeats William Jewell College in the semifinals of the NAIA Division II men’s basketball tournament tonight, the Pirates will play in the championship game televised live by Prime Sports Network Tuesday night.
PSN’s title-game coverage is scheduled for a 6:30 start.
Before Whitworth is ready for prime time, the fourth-seeded Pirates (25-4) must deal with a strong Cardinals team from Liberty, Mo.
Ninth-seeded William Jewell (30-8) competes in the Heart of America Athletic Conference.
The Cardinals are led by 6-foot-5 forward Brook Russell, the fourth-leading scorer in the tournament at 26.7 points per game.
The Cardinals have also gotten 17.3 points per game from 6-7 center Chad Jones and another 14 per game from 6-4 forward Kelly Hurst.
Eric Andrews, the Cardinals’ 5-11 point guard, is the tournament’s assists leader at 9.3 per game.
Whitworth, which defeated tournament host Northwest Nazarene 88-70 on Saturday, is led in scoring by 6-5 forward Gabe Jones (20.7 per game), 6-6 forward Nate Dunham (18), 6-2 guard Nate Williams (15.3) and 6-2 guard Roman Wickers (15).
Wickers (26), Dunham (22) and Jones (21) each scored more than 20 points on Saturday.
In tonight’s other semifinal, No.3 seed Albertson College (29-3) plays No.2 seed Walsh University (31-4) of North Canton, Ohio, at 4.
Albertson - located in Caldwell, 17 miles west of Nampa - and Northwest Nazarene are bitter Cascade Conference rivals.
After Albertson advanced to the Final Four with a win over WisconsinLutheran on Saturday afternoon, Albertson fans started chanting: “Go Whitworth go! Go Whitworth go!” in the direction of the Northwest Nazarene cheering section.
“These two teams hate each other’s guts,” Albertson coach Marty Holly said. “I’ve been around a lot of rivalries before, and I’ve never seen one this intense. From here on out, nobody but our fans are going to be rootin’ for us.
“And I’ll tell you this, if us and Whitworth play in the championship, the Pirates will have gained an entire town of Northwest Nazarene fans,” Holly said.
Two of the Final Four teams have coaches with last names pronounced, “Holly.” Marty Holly is Albertson College’s coach; Larry Holley is William Jewell’s coach.
Each coach has been known to give the other a hard time for spelling his last name the wrong way.
Larry had the chance of a lifetime to pull a fast one on Marty last week when he was pulled over by a Nampa police officer for a traffic violation allegedly committed on, you guessed it, Holly Street.
The William Jewell coach reportedly was just inches away from telling the officer he coached at Albertson.
Said Albertson’s Holly: “If he had done that, there’s no question he would have been thrown in the slammer until this tournament ended.”
In the heat of battle against Northwest Nazarene Saturday night, Whitworth reserve Jeff Mix nearly checked into the game with his player credential still hanging around his neck.
Such credentials are issued to players, coaches, media and school administrators for admittance into Montgomery Fieldhouse.
A freshman forward, Mix unknowingly went through warmups and player introductions with his pass around his neck. Finally, an official told him to remove it.
Earlier in the week, four of the wives of the William Jewell coaching staff were caught trying to sneak into areas of Montgomery Fieldhouse where they didn’t belong.
A security officer noticed that the same name tag passed through his section twice within a short time.
The nametag belonged to one of Cardinals’ coaches.
The Pirates have the largest average margin of victory among remaining teams: 19.4 points per game. William Jewell is next at 10.6, followed by Albertson (8.4) and Walsh (6.3).
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: TIPOFF Whitworth meets William Jewell at 7 tonight