Winford undergoes emergency surgery
By Josh Friesen
Adversity continues for the Eagles after a dominant 86-72 win against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Feb. 16 at Reese Court.
Early in the second half, senior guard Kevin Winford collided hard with a Thunderbird defender who was setting a pick. Winford fell to the hardwood and was helped to the locker room limping. Things looked optimistic, however, when Winford came back onto the court about 10 minutes later without the limp.
The evening following the game, Winford experienced increased pain in his shin and underwent emergency surgery after being diagnosed with compartment syndrome. He will not be traveling with the team when they take on Portland on Feb. 18. His status for the rest of the season is uncertain.
“There’s been so much adversity,” head coach Jim Hayford said. “We just keep going, and it’s just kind of the next man up. Who’s the next guy? Go do your job.”
The Eagles made their presence felt in their win against Southern Utah, and they played perhaps one of their more complete games of the season. The Eagles spread the ball around, registering 18 assists as a team, including a monster alley-oop on a feed from senior guard Jeffrey Forbes to sophomore forward Martin Seiferth. The players also joined the fray under the basket, each nabbing at least two rebounds. Seiferth, who registered his second double-double of the year, led the team in rebounding with 10. He added 13 points.
“It was a great night for Martin to give us a great interior presence. He really played well,” Hayford said. “We said, ‘We can’t let them get points off of rebound put-backs.’ We did a really good job of cleaning up the boards.”
Because Southern Utah is known around the Big Sky Conference as a physical team, Seiferth knew he had to play with a little more fire than normal.
“This is a physical team. You just have to bring it for 40 minutes,” Seiferth said. “I just have to have a mindset of getting rebounds. That’s what I did, and I told myself to just go after every rebound and to just get everything.”
The Eagles also imposed their defensive will, forcing Southern Utah to shoot a dismal 32.8 percent from the floor.
Eastern set a pair of blocked shot records against Southern Utah. Freshman forward Venky Jois, who is in his first game back since spraining his ankle on Jan. 31, had five blocks in the game, totalling 55 for the season and breaking the school’s single-season block record. As a team, the Eagles sit at 138 blocks, which also broke the school’s single-season record.
Hayford commented on Jois’ ability to be a stalwart defensive presence, even though his ankle still bothered him.
“Obviously Venky [Jois] is nowhere near 100 percent, but he helped us set a school record for blocked shots tonight although he wasn’t able to score,” Hayford said.
Eastern was in an offensive groove all game long, and they held the lead from start to finish. They shot 53.7 percent from the floor, a season-high. Their 86 points was also a season-high. Senior forward Collin Chivertson led all Eagle shooters with 18 points off of 5-8 shooting, including 3-5 from the 3-point line.
Sophomore guard Parker Kelly was also efficient from downtown, converting 3-5 as well. He was second behind Chiverton with 15 points. Parker was impressed with the depth the team showed, as well as their ability to maintain the lead.
“A lot of guys who maybe weren’t getting chances earlier in the year are getting chances, and they’re stepping up,” Kelly said. “That really helps us because it throws the other team off . … They’re not expecting those guys to come forward like that.
“It was very encouraging for me and for the team and for all the coaches to see that we could keep a lead and build on it.”
Freshman guard Tyler Harvey, who was essential in the Eagles’ thrilling overtime victory against Northern Arizona on Feb. 9, was the fourth Eagle to score in double figures with 11 points.
The Eagles sit at eighth place in the Big Sky, but they are not far from the coveted seventh place spot that would earn them a trip to play in the Big Sky Tournament for the second consecutive year. Sacramento State, Montana State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado each own 7-9 conference records while Eastern has a 6-9 conference record.
According to Hayford, placement for the Big Sky Tournament is up for grabs.
“We’ve won four of our last six. We’re in the fight to get in the Big Sky Tournament,” Hayford said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of different between the third and 11th place team in the Big Sky.
“You got to keep grinding, and we did that tonight,” he added. “I’m really proud of my team.”