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Halvorsen has big plans — including 1,000-point club — for next season

Joe Avento • Mar 26, 2020 at 10:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Matt Halvorsen wasn’t quite sure where he would stack up as a Division I basketball player when he headed to Western Carolina three years ago.

The Kingsport native still has to pinch himself when he looks forward to next season as he’s expected to break the 1,000-point barrier for his career.

“That’s super cool,” said Halvorsen, who is 61 points shy of the milestone. “I never would have thought that four or five years ago. I had no idea going in if I was going to just play a few minutes or play 30 to 35 minutes like I have the past two years.”

Halvorsen’s third year at Western Carolina was his most successful, team wise. The Catamounts, in their second season under coach Mark Prosser, went 19-12, including 10-8 in a tough Southern Conference. They swept defending champion Wofford along the way and were a team on the rise.

Western Carolina was going to be rewarded with a berth in the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament, otherwise known as the CIT, before the college basketball season came crashing to a halt.

“We were going to play Tuesday or Wednesday and I heard it was supposed to be a home game, which would have been nice,” Halvorsen said. “Obviously, that got shot down.”

Having the CIT pulled out from under them was disappointing to the Catamounts, but it wasn’t the biggest disappointment they experienced. The team had improved by 12 wins from the previous season and had big plans heading into the Southern Conference tournament. After beating Mercer, they ran into a buzzsaw and lost to eventual champion East Tennessee State in the semifinals.

“The biggest disappointing part was that we weren’t playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Halvorsen said. “Our goal was to win the Southern Conference tournament and we thought we had a chance.”

Halvorsen, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard, averaged 9.5 points per game this season while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range. He started all but one of his team’s 31 games and had a season high of 21 points against The Citadel. He’s also made more than 85% of his free throws in his career.

Halvorsen’s homecoming to the Tri-Cities on the final day of the regular season looked like it was going to go his team’s way as the Catamounts were poised to upset first-place ETSU at a sold-out Freedom Hall.

“It was a super fun game until the last two minutes or so,” he said. “That was one of the loudest crowds I’ve played in. That and Florida State were probably the two loudest.”

Western Carolina led much of the game until Patrick Good took over and willed the Bucs to a 68-67 victory that clinched the SoCon regular-season championship. Good scored 26 points, including 17 in a four-minute stretch at the end. He made seven shots from 3-point range, including the winner with seven seconds remaining.

“Being up 10 or so all game made me feel great inside,” Halvorsen said. “We were just showing the East Tennessee area how good we were. Then they played great the last few minutes. They won and got the last laugh.”

Halvorsen and Good, who grew up in Johnson City, go back a long way after playing AAU ball together while growing up and competing against each other for a while in high school.

“I’ve seen him do stuff like that in pickup games all the time,” Halvorsen said. “He hadn’t been playing well to that point. He just got hot and once a shooter sees a ball go in a few times, they’re tough to stop.”

While the Bucs were cutting down the nets, the Catamounts were packing up for the bus ride back to Cullowhee, North Carolina.

With high scoring Mason Faulkner coming back and a program riding some momentum, Halvorsen hopes for an even better senior season at Western Carolina.

“We still have some of our main guys,” he said. “Our main goal was to win the SoCon tournament this year and that is going to be our goal again next year. The league is really good. Nothing is going to be given to us. We’ll have to put in the work.”

Along the way, he’s likely to become the 47th player in Western Carolina history to score 1,000 points.

“It’s an individual goal of mine that I realized is reachable a year or two back,” he said. “But the main goal is to win the SoCon tournament and win games. By winning games you can reach individual goals.”

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