Sports

March sadness for Matthews, Montana

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament loves a good Cinderella story — hence the moniker “March Madness” describing the 64-team field. The University of Montana Grizzlies and starting guard Virgil Matthews, a Federal Way High School graduate, got an opportunity to wear that slipper for a couple days last weekend in Salt Lake City.

Montana, who entered the tournament as a No. 12 seed, upset the fifth-seeded Nevada Wolfpack Thursday before falling to the mighty Boston College Eagles Saturday in the round of 32.

The much bigger and stronger Eagles dominated the Big Sky Conference champions following an early-game run by the Grizzlies. Montana actually built a five-point lead and trailed only 32-30 at halftime. But that was as close as the Grizzlies would get.

“We were sniffing around, at least at halftime, and got a taste of what some big-time basketball is all about, Montana coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

Boston College hails from the Atlantic Coast Conference and lost to Duke in the final of the league tournament before beating the University of the Pacific in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles will face Villanova in the Sweet 16.

The loss to Boston College marked the final game of Matthews’ career at Montana after starring at Federal Way and Centralia Community College for two seasons.

As a sophomore at Centralia, Matthews was named the Western Division’s Most Valuable Player after averaging 22.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists before signing with Montana.

As a senior this season, Matthews finished third on the team in scoring (10.6 points a game), second in rebounding (six a game), first in assists (5.6) and second in steals (2.5).

“He doesn’t have any deficiencies,” Krystkowiak said. “He doesn’t do one thing great or perfect, but he brings a lot of things to the table. He doesn’t have a big deficiency you’re trying to hide.”

Matthews, the former Mirror All-City Player of the Year, was a huge key in the Grizzlies’ first-round upset of Nevada. Matthews tallied 20 points, five rebounds and three assists Thursday. He also finished 6-for-6 from the free-throw line and 2-for-2 from behind the 3-point arc.

But, like most of the Grizzlies, Matthews struggled against the constant defensive pressure from Boston College Saturday. The 6-foot-3 guard finished with just two points on 0-of-3 shooting from the field. He did have a team-high six assists.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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