Western men take accolades to KC

DILLON — Frontier Conference commissioner Kent Paulson announced the 2012-13 all-conference men’s basketball team as well as individual award winners on Wednesday, March 6 after balloting by the league’s coaches. Later that day, the University of Montana Western found out they will be heading to Kansas City, Mo. for the national tournament.

Montana Western head coach Steve Keller was selected as the 2012-2013 Coach of the Year for the second straight year. Keller led the Bulldogs 22-9/11-5 record and a second-place finish in the regular season standings as well as a second-place finish in the Frontier Conference Playoffs. Next week, Keller will take the Bulldogs to the NAIA National Tournament for the fourth straight year.

The Bulldogs’ Kris Castro was named the Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Jake Owsley earned Frontier Conference First-Team All-Conference honors while Jordan Overstreet made the second team and Maazin Butler was honorable mention.

Castro, a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Huntley, Mont., averages 5.03 rebounds, 1.39 steals (11th in the conference) and 0.87 blocks (fourth in the conference) for the Bulldogs. He also contributes 6.23 points, 2.61 assists and constant all-out hustle. He is the son of Vincent and Kelly Castro and is majoring in elementary education.

Owsley leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 12.5 points per game, in rebounds with 8.31 and in blocks with 1.65. His blocks per game are also tops for the conference and rank fifth nationally. The 6’8” junior from Bozeman, Mont. has eight double-doubles on the season. His parents are Phil and Cris Owsley, and he is majoring in physical education K-12.

Overstreet, Montana Western’s go-to player on the bench, is second in the conference with his 43-percent three-point shooting. He puts up 12.3 points per game and is sixth in the Frontier for his 77-percent shooting on free throws. Hailing from Three Forks, Mont., the sophomore is the son of John Overstreet and is majoring in elementary education.

Butler, third on the team with 12.1 points per game, is a 6’ junior from Tacoma, Wash. He also averages 1.94 assists and 1.03 steals. The business administration major is the son of Marnita Butler.

These stellar student-athletes will be testing their skills next weekend when they lead the Montana Western Bulldogs to the 76th annual Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship. The 32-team, single elimination format will take place from March 13 to 19 at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

The field is comprised of 17 automatic berths and 15 at-large selections, which were determined using the final regular-season Coaches’ Top 25 Poll. Montana Western moved up two spots in the poll to share the 13th ranking.

A record four teams were selected from the Frontier Conference. Fifth seeded and unranked Rocky Mountain College earned the league’s automatic berth for winning the conference tournament while fifth-ranked Lewis-Clark State and 24th-ranked Montana State-Northern joined Montana Western in receiving at-large bids.

The tournament kicks off at 9 a.m. CST for the first three days with eight games scheduled each day. Quarterfinal action tips off at 2 p.m. on March 16. The first 28 games will be broadcast by NeuLion. An all-tournament pass is available for $29.95, while a single day pass can be purchased for $9.95. The semifinals on March 18 will be broadcast live on ESPN3 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. while the championship final will be televised live on CBS Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. on March 19.

The Bulldogs will head to the tournament for their fourth straight and 11th overall tournament appearance. Montana Western received the 14th-seed and will take on the Philander Smith Panthers (Little Rock, Ark.), the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) champions.

Philander Smith, 25-7 and ranked 22nd in the NAIA, is making their first appearance at the national tournament. As a member of the eight-team GCAC, the Panthers were regular season Co-Conference Champions with an 11-3 record. They hosted and won their Conference Tournament by taking out number seven Fisk University (Nashville, Tenn.) 91-81, number three Edward Waters College (Jacksonville, Fla.) 77-69 and number eight Dillard University (New Orleans, La.) 65-45.

Three Philander Smith athletes were selected to the GCAC All-Conference team: senior forward Alvin Nance, senior guard Clayton Busby and junior center Juvon Demerson. Nance was also chosen as the GCAC Newcomer of the Year and Player of the Year while head coach Sam Weaver was honored as co-coach of the year.

In addition, senior forward Andre Clark and senior guard Damarkus Lipscomb were named to the all-tournament team with Lipscomb earning GCAC Most Valuable Player honors.

Nance leads the Panthers and the conference with 20.55 points per game and his 94-percent free throw shooting is tops for the nation. He also has a Panther best 0.76 blocks per game. Lipscomb leads the conference in assists with 7.58 and the Panthers in steals with 2.39. Jaron Egbe pulls down 6.6 rebounds per game.

Montana Western and Philander Smith will match up in the tournament’s fourth game on Wednesday, March 13 at 2 p.m. MST. The winner will move on to play either Voorhees College (Bamberg, S.C.) or No. 3 Lee University (Cleveland, Tenn.) on Friday, March 15 at 9:45 p.m.

— UM Western Sports Information