Unbeaten NIC hoop teams open SWAC play
The North Idaho College men's and women's basketball teams, neither of which have been beaten this season, open Scenic West Athletic Conference play this weekend - then don't return to conference play for another month.
The top-ranked NIC men (13-0) play tonight at Snow College (9-4) in Ephraim, Utah, then play at Salt Lake Community College (10-1) on Saturday.
The third-ranked NIC women (10-0) also play at Snow (6-2) tonight and Salt Lake (7-2) on Saturday.
Salt Lake received votes in this week's men's poll. The College of Southern Idaho (12-1), which opens at Salt Lake tonight, is ranked 12th.
In the women's poll, Salt Lake is ranked 25th. CSI (12-1), which plays at Salt Lake tonight, is 12th.
Snow picked up DeShawn Mitchell, a 6-foot-5 transfer from UNLV, who leads the SWAC in scoring at 24.2 points per game. Michael Hale of NIC is second at 17.7, and Travis Wilkins of Snow is sixth at 15.2.
Phay said the Badgers have been battling injuries, with Renato Portugal, from Brazil, slowed by a stress fracture.
"Snow's really talented," Phay said. "Salt Lake's as good as they always are."
On the women's side, Haley Holmstead of Salt Lake averages a conference-high 28.1 points per game. Alle Finch of Snow is second at 18.9 points per game, followed by Erica Marinez of Snow at 18.0, Tugce Canitez of NIC at 14.9 and Kama Griffitts of NIC at 14.9.
"I think we have the toughest schedule in the league," NIC women's coach Chris Carlson said. "We have to go to Salt and Snow two times, and we have to go to CSI two times - we have our work cut out for us."
After this weekend, NIC's teams don't play in conference again until Jan. 8 at the College of Southern Idaho.
After playing everybody in the SWAC four times for a 20-game conference schedule, this year everybody plays each other just three times for a 15-game SWAC slate.
Phay said the condensed schedule was for budget reasons as well.
"Playing each other four times - five if you play at regionals - it's kind of a grind," Phay said. "Three (games) is enough and four is still plenty. It hurts with the schedule, but at least we're not beating up on each other so much that it hurts us in the end."