Most college coaches contend that each year is a rebuilding year, and while that might be true, some programs have it easier than others. Take the women's basketball team at Seattle...

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Most college coaches contend that each year is a rebuilding year, and while that might be true, some programs have it easier than others.



Take the women’s basketball team at Seattle Pacific. Whereas rebuilding may be a dirty word for a down-and-out squad, the Falcons are simply putting a new twist in a proven recipe.



“Every year the team’s different, even if you just lose a couple players,” said Mandy Wood, who has moved into the starting backcourt as a junior. “It changes the dynamics, and it takes a few games to see who’s going to step up.”



After losing all-region center Kelley Berglund in 2002-03, Valerie Gustafson stepped up last season and became an All-American. Now, with Gustafson gone, Wood is among those capably filling the void.



“This year there are so many people who can step up and have a big night,” Wood said.



Topped by Wood, seven players average between seven and 14 points. Together the Falcons are 8-1, ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division II and averaging more than 80 points.



SPU hosts 12th-ranked and unbeaten Cal Poly Pomona tomorrow night. It’s a rematch of last season’s regional championship game and one that will loom large in determining the top seed for the West in March. Wood predicts a close game.















Pick of the week


Women’s basketball




Seattle Pacific vs. Cal Poly Pomona, at SPU’s Brougham Pavilion, tomorrow, 5 p.m.



The scoop: Rematch of 2004 NCAA West region championship. Broncos (7-0) feature Candice Allen, who is averaging 31 points.



“We’re going to find out who’s going to want the ball,” said the 5-foot-6 Port Angeles native.



A year ago in the playoffs, fellow guard Amy Taylor broke open a tight contest by hitting a pair of three-pointers and scoring eight unanswered points in the second half. If the Broncos key on Taylor, Wood is ready.



Thanks in part to taking a thousand extra shots in the gym each week, she’s hitting 48 percent of her field goals, including 39 percent on threes.



“My extra shots keep me confident, make me feel comfortable out there,” said Wood.



After entering the postseason with perfect records the past two seasons, Wood and her teammates are not so much concerned with rankings and win streaks. What matters most is to come prepared for March and the ensuing madness of tournament play.



“Everyone hates to lose. Our loss still bugs us,” she said of last year’s defeat in the Elite Eight. “We’ve learned from that loss and the one this season. I think we’ve come back more focused. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve lost one game, and that’s enough. We don’t want to lose again.”



SPU sports



Men’s basketball: During their six-game win streak the Falcons (8-2) have scored 90 or more points four times and held opponents under 70 four times. Senior center Jason Chivers (Los Angeles) had five double-doubles in the first 10 games. SPU hosts Wisconsin Parkside and Puget Sound in its holiday tournament, today and tomorrow.



Women’s basketball: Brittney Kroon (Wasilla, Alaska), the Falcons’ 6-4 junior center who led NCAA II in blocked shots last season, needs 10 more to break the school career mark.



Seattle U.



Men’s basketball: After a potentially serious injury less than three weeks ago, Seattle University’s leading scorer Bernard Seals (Sacramento, Calif.) is expected to make his return to the Redhawks’ lineup in today’s 3 p.m. game against Puget Sound at SPU. Seals fell awkwardly after trying to block a shot and lost feeling in his legs for about five hours, but has fully recovered.



Women’s basketball: Freshman Laina Sobczak (Curtis of Tacoma) has missed half of the 2004-05 season due to injury, but she is leading the Redhawks (4-5) in scoring at 13.0 points per game, and rebounding at 8.5 per game.



Washington State



Women’s basketball: Kate Benz (Portland, Ore.) had her third consecutive double-digit rebounding game with 13 against No. 21 Arizona State on Monday. The sophomore has averaged 13.3 rebounds over the last three games.



Western Washington



Men’s basketball: For the first time since Feb. 17, 1987, a stretch of 517 games, Western Washington did not have a starter score in double digits in a 95-77 loss to undefeated South Dakota (11-0) on Dec. 18. The No. 14 Vikings (9-1) play Whitman tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Bellingham High School.



Women’s basketball: Junior center Courtney Clapp (Juanita of Kirkland), a transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College, has scored 49 points in her last two games, including 30 vs. Sonoma State, after not reaching double figures in the Vikings’ first six games. At Santa Rosa, Clapp averaged 20.0 points as a sophomore. Western (7-1), which has won its last seven games by 11 or more points, meets No.12 Cal Poly Pomona today at 1 p.m. to open the CCAA/GNAC Challenge Classic at Seattle Pacific’s Brougham Pavilion.



Eastern Washington



Women’s basketball: The Eagles women’s basketball team will try to complete a perfect December when it hosts Denver today. Eastern (6-3) has won five straight, with its last loss to Gonzaga on Nov. 30.



Pacific Lutheran



Athletics: Scott Names of Gig Harbor, a longtime booster of PLU athletics, died on Dec. 23. He was 91. Names provided funds for the Names Fitness Center, the hardwood floor in Olson Auditorium and the Names Endowment.





Other colleges



Northwest: Hot-shooting freshman Stephen Ishmael (Redmond) came off the bench last week to lead Northwest to the biggest win in school history, a 79-72 victory over No. 8 Albertson. Ishmael shot a perfect 9 of 9 from the floor and was 7 of 7 from the free-throw line to finish with 25 points and 13 rebounds.



Whitman: Rachel Walker (Whistler, B.C.) and Hannes Zirknitzer (Bright, Australia) of Whitman’s alpine ski team will represent their native countries at the 22nd Winter World University Games, which begin Jan. 12 in Innsbruck, Austria. Whitman’s season begins Jan. 5-6.



Whitworth: The women’s basketball team is 7-0, the best start in school history. The Pirates, ranked 19th in NCAA III by the WBCA, are led by senior forwards Tiffany Speer (Snohomish), who scores 22.6 points per game, and Sarah Shogren (East Valley of Spokane), who averages 19.7 points and 9.9 rebounds.



College sports-information directors contributed to this notebook.