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Basketball goes to first NCAA tournament

March 3, 2011

The UW-River Falls men’s basketball team continues to the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time in UWRF history, according to UWRF Sports Information.

The announcement of the 61 team tournament was made Feb. 28.  Although the team lost to UW-Stevens Point at Stevens Point Feb. 26, they received an at-large bid to the tournament based on their record, said Roger Ternes, UWRF Athletic Director.

The UWRF men’s basketball team will play Illinois Wesleyan 5:30 p.m. March 4 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

The men began their playoff season by defeating UW-Platteville at home Feb. 24 with a score of 69-60, according to UWRF Sports Information.

Going into the game, the Falcons had a record of 19-6, according to season statistics.

“All year we’ve said that ‘United We Win’ and I think that has held true for this year.  We’ve stayed as one this entire year and for that our record speaks well of us,” senior Jontae Koonkaew said.

The men’s team has experienced a 180-degree turn around, which can be measured by wins and losses and the continually increasing student support, said Ternes.

“The proudest moment for me has been knowing that we came together as a team to produce a successful season after coming off a terrible season a year ago,” said senior Brady Hannigan.

The men then went on the road Feb. 26 to Quandt Fieldhouse to play UW-Stevens Point in the first men’s conference championship game in UWRF history, according to UWRF Sports Information.

“We want to make it to the conference championship.  It would be very special to us to make it there after where we finished in last year’s season,” Koonkaew said.

The Falcons were defeated by UW-Stevens Point with a score of 79-56.  With the win, UW-Stevens Point claims the WIAC Conference Championship title for the third consecutive season, according to
UW-Stevens Point Sports.

The men’s team is losing four seniors in next year’s season, which include Hannigan, Koonkaew, Jake Voeltz, and Danny Johnson, according to UWRF Sports Information.

“We are going to miss all four seniors.  They have provided great play and leadership,” said Head Coach Jeff Berkhof.

Berkhof has been named the 2011 WIAC Coach of the Year according to the UWRF Athletic Department.

The UWRF students and other Falcon fans have helped make for a great season, Ternes said.

“I think the students should be proud of themselves.  They have helped us with their enthusiasm and presence at our games, and for that I want to send a special thank you,” Koonkaew said.

The women’s basketball team began the playoffs with a 66-44 win over the fourth seed, UW-Eau Claire Feb. 23 at UW-Eau Claire. 

“That’s a good match-up for us.  We split with them during the season and have every opportunity to beat them again,” said Head Coach Cindy Holbrook.

The game against UW-Eau Claire marked the first time in school history that UWRF has beat them in a playoff game, according to UWRF Sports Information.

“Eau Claire is the best game we could have asked for.  The rest of the games will follow,” said senior Tess Lardie.

The women advanced to the semi-finals in the WIAC Feb. 25 at UW-Stevens Point.

“This time of year the goal is always to win your next game.  If we just win the next game, we get to keep playing, that’s what it’s about when you get to the playoffs,” Holbrook said.

The women lost to UW-Stevens Point with a score of 65-54, according to UWRF Sports Information.

“The women have played UW-Stevens Point really tough.  They’re tough to beat, but on any given day, anything is possible,” Ternes said.

Although the women’s season is finished, they have a lot to be proud of, Ternes said.

“They finished fifth in the WIAC, which is in the top half of the league.  WIAC is the envy of everyone in Division III because it is the premier conference in the country,” Ternes said.

The team has come a long way in preparing for post season, said Lardie.

“Students should look forward to us playing our game in the effort to win in one of the most competitive conferences in the nation,” Lardie said.

The women finished their season with an overall record of 16-11 and fifth in the WIAC.

“Of course we would have liked to finish better, but we dropped a couple of key games that were really costly for us this year.  We knew going into the season we were going to have to stay healthy, as we
needed to be at full-strength in this conference.  We had to show up and really compete physically and mentally every single day.  We weren’t able to do that,” Holbrook said.

The women graduate one senior team member, Lardie, according to UWRF Sports Information.

“She’s been versatile and has been able to fill some critical roles as we battled injuries this year.  We return everyone else and have a very nice recruiting class coming next year,” said Holbrook.

Students also have a lot to be proud of in the UWRF Basketball Program, said Ternes.

“The character of the young men and women that are a part of these two program