Catamounts go 1-2 in season opening tournament

The Western Carolina Catamounts went 1-2 in the Peggy Cronin Classic in Cincinnati, giving the Catamount fans a sense of pride and a feeling of winning, something they have not felt for a long time following the disastrous football season. In the tournament opener, the Catamounts defeated the Bowling Green Falcons 63-60, winning their season opener for the third consecutive year. Two seasons ago, head coach Larry Hunter earned his first victory against the Falcons. This year would be no different. The Catamounts were carried by sophomore Nick Aldridge who recorded a game-high 17 points, while fellow sophomore Brigham Waginger nailed three of his 15 points in the closing minutes that put WCU in front 58-55. Following the 3-pointer by Waginger, Nate Miller of the Falcons nailed a jumper to cut the game to one at 58-57. Then with 2:31 remaining in the game, sophomore Jake Robinson swished a 3-pointer of his own that put WCU ahead for good at 61-57. Turnovers and missed shots were prevalent during the final minute as both teams struggled to make any buckets down the stretch. The game was decided when senior Arnold Gore nailed two free-throws to win the game 63-60. On the very next night, the Catamounts proved that they could play with the big boys. However, the Cincinnati Bearcats were able to edge WCU 66-64 in the Catamounts second game of the Peggy Cronin Classic. The Catamounts fell to 1-1 following the loss, but they did not go down without a fight. Cincinnati’s Marcus Sikes scored his only basket of the game with less than a second to play and won the game for the Bearcats. In a very hard-fought game, the Catamounts were led by Aldridge who scored 22, leading the Cats in scoring for the second consecutive game. With 23.5 seconds remaining in the game, Aldridge was fouled as he scored on a lay-up. He sunk the free-throw to set up the three-point play, tying the contest at 64 apiece. This set up the final shot by the Bearcats. Joining Aldridge in double-digits against the Bearcats was Robinson with 12 points, all of which came from behind the arc, and freshman Michael Porrini with 11. Playing their third game in three nights, the Catamounts were looking to rebound from the Cincinnati loss and were hoping to end the Cronin Classic with a victory over Belmont. However, the Bruins had other plans as they edged the Catamounts 79-70. Trailing by as much as 17, the Catamounts came back and took a five point lead with 8:13 remaining in the game. The Bruins, however, were just too much for WCU to handle down the stretch. They overcame the blown lead and pulled away by making 7-of-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch. Once again, Aldridge, Robinson, and Porrini recorded double digits to lead the Cats in scoring. Aldridge scored 20 points and five boards, while Porrini had 15 and seven rebounds, and Robinson finished with 11 including a 5-of-6 showing from the free-throw line. Following his team’s 1-2 start, head coach Larry Hunter is pleased with his team’s overall performance early on in the season. “We are a relatively young team and we are still in the process of establishing our roles, learning to play together and learning the system. I have been extremely pleased with our energy and competitive nature in our first few games,” said Hunter.After playing three games in three consecutive nights, the Catamounts got two days of rest before playing in their home opener against the Monarchs of Methodist College on Nov. 14 in the Ramsey Center.