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What can the Falcons do for an encore?

The Seattle Pacific men’s basketball team looks to defend its title in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament this week at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, but it will be hard to top last year’s event, when the Falcons beat Western Washington at the buzzer in the title game on a Jobi Wall three-pointer.

The winner of the event gets an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II regionals, but SPU figures to get in no matter what after compiling a 24-5 record and the regular-season GNAC title.

Still, don’t tell SPU coach Ryan Looney that there is no incentive for his team.

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“We obviously want to improve our seeding,” Looney said. “Last year was a wonderful experience for our players, and we have every intention of winning again.”

Top-seeded Seattle Pacific, led by conference MVP David Downs, has a bye Wednesday. The Falcons play the winner of No. 3 seed Alaska Fairbanks (17-9) vs. No. 6 seed Montana State Billings (12-14) on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in a semifinal.

If the games go according to form, SPU would meet No. 2 seed Western Washington (19-7) in Saturday’s title game, which starts at 5:15 p.m.

The Seattle Pacific women are looking to pull off an upset to earn a berth in the NCAA regionals. The fifth-seeded Falcons (18-8) play No. 4 seed Simon Fraser (17-8) at 7:30. The winner of that game plays top-seeded Montana State Billings at 7:30 Friday in a semifinal.

The Western Washington women (17-9) are the No. 2 seed. The title game is Saturday at 7:30.

The Seattle Pacific men come into the tournament having won 13 of their past 14 games, with the only loss coming in overtime. The Falcons got on the roll after all-conference forward Patrick Simon returned from missing three games, two of which SPU lost.

“Not having him play in those three games made us realize what areas we needed to get better in, then having him back was a big bonus,” Looney said. “The guys who don’t get a lot of recognition have gotten better every week, and that has been a big key.”

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