Today is a big day for me and for Portland Pilot Fandom. For me, it was on this day seven years ago when my now fiancé and I started dating. And it was on this day six years ago, when said fiancé insisted that we go out on a date to celebrate our first anniversary rather than go see my beloved Portland Pilots take on then #21 BYU at the Chiles Center. It was up to me to choose between my love and my girlfriend. I’m kidding of course but it was a big moment in my fandom of the Portland Pilots. It was the moment that I had to think about it and it was the moment that I knew I’d be a lifelong fan. But of course I took my then girlfriend out to dinner and I’m glad I did because six years later we are preparing for our wedding at the end of this month. One of many reasons that I am marrying this woman is because to this day, she will admit that if we could go back and do it again, she would insist that I attend the game. As for the game, Portland lost 78-54 to a very tough BYU.
It’s fitting that six years later Portland again faces a team from Utah, this time Southern Utah. Six years ago it was Nik Ravio, Sherard Watson, and Robin Smuelders that led the Pilots, this time around Thomas van der Mars, Kevin Bailey, and Ryan Nicholas led Portland in a 86-57 victory over the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah. Van der Mars led all scorers with 17 and Bailey shook off a slow start to chip in 16.
Portland controlled the game for all 40 minutes, continually pushing the ball in transition and stopping Southern Utah from setting up their full court press. Whenever the Pilots rebounded the ball, they were finding Alec Wintering on the outlet and he would push the ball. Wintering dished out 10 assists plus scored 5 and contributed 4 steals, but the number that really sticks out is his 0 turnovers.
Portland had contributions from just about every player as 11 Pilots scored including a solid 12 by reserve Voldy Gerun.
Now after 8 games the Pilots are 5-3. They are pushing the ball out in transition that is leading to easier scores, something that they didn’t do well last season. They are deeper than previous years, and if they continue to play together, and improve, they should be an interesting team come WCC season.
So as I reflect on the past 6 years its been a great run: Some really fun seasons, some fantastic wins, a couple of tough seasons, and a few heartbreaking losses. But as we look forward it’s probably more of all of them, but I’m optimistic and excited for sure about the future.