By Oly Archibald

PASCO — Let March Madness begin as the Peninsula Pirates men’s basketball team opens up the NWAC tournament today at 2 pm against the 23-4 Portland Panthers.

The Panthers, champions of the Southern Conference, are the #1 offense in the NWAC averaging 96 points per game. In their final Conference game, all the Panthers did was blow out Mount Hood 115-93.

The Panthers are led by 6’0″ freshman Jahvari Martino out of San Barlow High School in Gresham, Oregon. Martino, who averages 22 points per game was the Southern Conference MVP and the Freshman of the Year.

The Panthers have 4 starters who average between 16-22 points per game. Hayden Rose; a 6’6″ sophomore out of Prairie High School in Brush Prairie, Washington; is a 1st team All Southern Conference selection. Rose averages 17 points per game and 8 rebounds per game. Kyle Gruhler, a 6’5″ Sophomore out of Vancouver’s Skyview High School averages 17 points per game. Josh Lincoln, a 6’6″ sophomore out of Australia, is a 2nd team all-Conference selection and averages 16 points per game.

The Pirates will have to slow down Panther 6’0″ Fr Jahvari Martino who averages 22 ppg and was the Southern Conference MVP

Panthers Head coach Cameron Mitchell was the Southern Conference Coach of the Year.

The Peninsula Pirates, 15-14 on the year, clinched the Northern Conference 4th and final NWAC tournament bid beating Shoreline in a playoff game in the Dolphins home gym.

The Pirates average 76 points per game and give up just 76 points per game. That’s the 11 best defense in the NWAC. Defensively, the Panthers give up 82 points per game which ranks 24th in the NWAC. The Pirates shoot 31% from the 3 pt stripe while the Panthers shoot a blistering 37%.

The Pirates are led by two of the best guards in the NWAC in guards Ese Onakpoma and Javon Ervin. Both Pirates were 1st team All Northern Conference selections.

Onakpoma, the super athletic 6’5″ sophomore from Connecticut, averages 20 points per game and was voted the Conference Most Valuable Defensive Player of the year. Javon Irvin, the former Ingram Ram, averages 19 points per game.

The Pirates will need big games from 2 local players. 6’5″ sophomore Aidan Olmstead, who won a State Championship at North Kitsap High School. Olmstead averages 7points per game and 8 rebounds per game. 6’6″ sophomore Wyatt Dunning, the former Roughrider, is averaging 8 points per game. Antonio Odum, a 6’6″ sophomore out of Legacy High School in Las Vegas, averages 8 points per game.

The Pirates will need big games from former Roughrider Wyatt Dunning and former North Kitsap Viking Aiden Olmstead

The Pirates have played very well against teams that they match up in size with. The Panthers have no one taller than 6’7″.

The Pirates and Panthers tip off at 2:00 from Columbia Basin College in Pasco. You can hear the live action here on KONP Newsradio with the pre-game show starting at 1:45. The winner will play at 2:00 tomorrow against the winner of the South Puget Sound – Columbia Basin game.

The Pirate women will tip off at Noon on Friday against Centralia.