He felt as if he couldn’t miss.
And Nate Menefee, the soft-shooting guard from The Evergreen State College, rarely did.
In a wild 108-97 win against the University of Puget Sound Tuesday at UPS Fieldhouse, Menefee scored 57 points, going 19-for-27 from the field and 16-for-16 from the free throw line, breaking school and conference records. He was giving a shooting clinic.
“I really wasn’t aware I had that many points,” Menefee said. “I felt good in warm-ups. My shot felt good. My shots just kept coming.”
Menefee had 24 by halftime and Evergreen had a 53-48 lead.
“His points came so easily,” Evergreen coach Jeff Drinkwine said. “I thought he maybe had 35. It says a lot about our execution. He was on the receiving end of a lot of passes.”
Menefee, who averaged 24.2 points last season and was third-team All-American, will be back in the scorer’s role tonight in a home game against Lewis & Clark College from Portland. He’ll be a marked man, but he’s not worried.
“I’m used to being the scorer,” said Menefee, who averaged 17 points his senior season at Timberline High School. “I honestly don’t feel any pressure. I’ve always been in that role. I’m used to it.”
By the second half against UPS, Menefee’s teammates were yelling, “Get someone out there to guard No. 5.”
Menefee, who wears No. 5, kept scoring on fastbreaks, beating defenders back for layup after layup.
“I couldn’t believe they didn’t adjust their defense,” Evergreen center Julio Feliciano said. “They never had a safety deep. I told Nate that if the defense was even with him, I was going to throw it deep. They couldn’t stay with him.”
Feliciano, like Peyton Manning, kept throwing the long bomb after pulling down another defensive rebound, catching Menefee in a full sprint for another fastbreak lay-in.
Menefee broke his own school record of 48 points he set in Evergreen’s come-from-behind win against Bluefield College at the NAIA Division II nationals last season. He’s one of four Geoducks to score at least 40 points in a game, joining Andrew Stewart, Quincy Wilder and Mike Parker.
Menefee also broke the Cascade Conference record of 55 points set by Corban’s 6-foot-10 Eric Fiegi on Dec. 5, 2005, against Oregon Tech.
The single-game record for NAIA Division II is 113 points scored by Clarence Francis in 1954. Menefee’s 19 field goals were third best all-time in the conference.
In the first half against UPS, Menefee went 10-for-15 from the field, missing two attempts from 3-point range. He was just as efficient in the second half, going 9-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-3 on 3-point attempts.
“He’s a gunner, but not a selfish gunner,” Feliciano said. “People think a gunner is bad. You need someone on your team to shoot. Nate looks to shoot.”
But Menefee is also a passer and a defender. He had eight assists and a blocked shot against the Loggers. After four games, Menefee is averaging 35.5 points and has a team-best 22 assists.
“Nate is a complete player,” Feliciano said. “He looks to pass, and he plays defense. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with.”
Menefee went into the game thinking he might score a lot of points because of UPS’ up-tempo style.
“I told my girlfriend I thought I might get 50,” Menefee said. “They like to play up-tempo, and so do we. But I’ve really (got to) give credit to my teammates. They got me the ball.”
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443
Evergreen men’s basketball
Coach: Jeff Drinkwine (third year)
Assistant coaches: Leonard Barnes, Kaelen Moore, Lenny Rogers, Allen Thomas
Last year’s record: 20-12
Returning starters: Three
Top returners: Julio Feliciano, 6-8, sr., center, 8.8 ppg, 6.1 RPG; Anthony Gallagher, 6-8, sr., forward, 3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg; Nate Menefee, 5-11, sr., guard, 24.2 ppg.
Top newcomers: Nick Livi, sr., guard, transfer from Southern Utah, 7.8 ppg; Marice Tolliver, 6-5, jr., guard, transfer from Lower Columbia, 13.9 ppg; Josh Troyer, 6-2, jr., transfer from Lower Columbia; Ben Wilson, 6-6, jr., forward, transfer from Yakima Valley, 9.47 ppg.
Outlook: With All-American Menefee back at guard and Feliciano back at center, Drinkwine has major blocks to build upon. In both of Drinkwine’s seasons at Evergreen he has won 20-plus games, proving he has the knack for fitting the pieces together. After wins against Saint Martin’s and UPS and losses against Biola and Azusa Pacific, Drinkwine is still juggling his lineup, looking for the right combinations. If Drinkwine can get this group to come together and play as a team, the Geoducks could be headed to nationals. But in a tough conference, that won’t be easy.
Evergreen women’s basketball
Coach: Monica Heuer (eighth year)
Assistant coaches: Mychael Heuer, Curtis Norwood, Alyssa Vogt
Returning starters: Three
Top returners: Katie Garcin, sr., 5-11, forward, 5.0 ppg, 45 percent from 3-point; Alex Saab, sophomore, 5-4, guard, 8.5 ppg, 40 steals; Angel Stewart, jr., 5-6, guard, 4.7 ppg.
Top newcomers: LeAsia Jones, jr., 5-10, forward, transfer from Lane College; Tana Palmason, jr., 5-10, forward, transfer from Masters College; Chelsey Nill, jr., 5-8, forward, transfer from Yakima Valley College; Brittany Weaver, jr., 5-8, guard, transfer from Yakima Valley; Cambria Smith, jr., 5-10, forward, transfer from La Sierra U; Latrina Woods, jr., 5-8, guard, transfer from La Sierra U; Shekia Hill, freshman, 5-7, guard.
Outlook: This could be Heuer’s best team at Evergreen. She has shooters – Woods, Palmason, Garcin. She has rebounders – Garcin, Smith. And she has defenders – Garcin, Stewart, Saab. If Heuer can get the Geo-ducks to cut their mistakes and not overshoot the 3-pointer, this will be a playoff team.
Gail Wood, The Olympian