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Gonzaga's pursuit of perfection ends in out-of-synch showing

INDIANAPOLIS — Corey Kispert greeted his coach with a hug on the sideline as he checked out for the last time, then soon wrapped his arms around Jalen Suggs as his teammate broke down in tears.

Disbelief and reality had set in: Gonzaga’s push for perfection had fallen short, stopped by an aggressive Baylor team that never let the Bulldogs find the often seamless execution that had carried them all season.

The Bulldogs — who had seemingly had everything clicking from the season’s opening tip — ended the season with an out-of-sync and disjointed showing in Monday night’s 86-70 loss to the Bears in the NCAA championship game.

Gone was their shot at becoming the first unbeaten national champion since Indiana in 1976, as well as the program’s push for that breakthrough first title.

“You try to do everything within your power to flip the switch,” coach Mark Few said. “But yeah, it was tough. When they’re consistently just more aggressive on both ends, it was hard to generate rhythm. We’d score a couple of times, we couldn’t ever get consecutive stops to kind of close some gaps. Then we didn’t help ourselves — we turned the ball over, we missed free throws.”

Gonzaga (31-1) shot 51% but finished with a season-low 70 points after averaging a national best 91.6 points. Beyond those numbers, though, was the simple fact that the Zags seemed to be struggling to bring everything together in response to a Bears team that tore through Houston in the national semifinals then came out on the attack.

The offense struggled to get clean looks early or make 3-pointers. A reliable defense couldn’t slow the Bears’ 3-point shooting. The Bulldogs couldn’t keep Baylor off the glass and kept committing turnovers, some just by bobbling the ball away on their own.

By midway through the first half, Gonzaga had improbably found itself down 19.

“They’re just not letting you do the things you normally do,” Kispert said. “I’m so used to kind of, if that happens, we take that punch and move on and kind of get on with the game and fight back really a lot quicker than we did. I’m kind of used to that reaction time being a little quicker.”

Suggs, the star freshman and top NBA draft prospect, had etched his name into tournament lore by banking home a running shot from just across half-court to beat UCLA in overtime in an electric national semifinal Saturday night. He opened this game with a missed 3-pointer and then an immediate offensive foul when he ran over a defender.

Minutes later, he took a seat after picking up his second foul as the Bears jumped all over the Zags for a 9-0 lead.

Suggs eventually returned and finished with a team-high 22 points, 15 coming after halftime. The problem was that the Zags never could seem to get everyone rolling together as they had all season, and it had them staring at a huge deficit just about all night.

Kispert, an Associated Press first-team All-American, didn’t get many clean looks and finished with just 12 points and two 3-pointers. Second-teamer Drew Timme also had 12 but got just seven shots while getting into second-half foul trouble and nursing an apparent injury.

Gonzaga made just 5 of 17 3-pointers, their lowest total of the six NCAA Tournament games. And the Zags struggled all night with the Bears playing aggressive defense that implied a lack of fear of being beaten off the dribble.

“They just literally busted us out of anything we could possibly do on offense,” Few said. “We were kind of playing sideways.”

The Zags had been here once before, taking a one-loss team all the way to the final night of the season four years ago before losing to North Carolina. This one will hurt maybe more for a team that won all but two games all year by double-digit margins and had Few within a victory of achieving the national championship he has spent years building toward.


Local
spotlight
Union Gap library and community center moving ahead, with groundbreaking anticipated this spring
  • Updated

Plans to bring a public library back to Union Gap are picking up speed, with groundbreaking for a new building on the northwest end of the city’s Civic Campus set to happen this spring.

The 5,000-square-foot Union Gap Library and Community Center will be built on the campus at 102 W. Ahtanum Road, across from City Hall and the police department. BORArchitecture designed the structure. Windows will predominately face City Hall and the building’s silhouette will be comparable, with shed roofs and similar cladding materials, according to the nonprofit’s website. The existing parking lot will be extended west to the accommodate more visitors.

Plans can be viewed on the Friends of Union Gap Library & Community Center website.

City officials are seeking construction bids until 3 p.m. April 21, according to a legal advertisement published Monday in the Yakima Herald-Republic. A pre-bid conference for interested contractors is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Supporters are looking forward to the library and community center opening sometime in late 2022.

The city of more than 6,000 has been without a local library branch since the former library in the old City Hall building was razed in 2015 due to black mold.

“On behalf of the Friends of Union Gap Library & Community Center 501c3, we would like to thank each and every one of the citizens of Union Gap for your effort in keeping the dream of a library and community center alive in Union Gap,” Mark Crouchet, chairman of the nonprofit, said in a news release.

“These resources are very much needed and we are sure that once the project is completed, you will enjoy the benefits of your efforts for years to come.”

Supporters created the nonprofit a year ago to continue the efforts of a city-sanctioned Friends of Union Gap Library and Community Center committee formed in 2018. The committee had three years to do the work, said Julie Schilling, a Union Gap City Council member and member of that original committee.

Committee members visited different libraries to get an idea of what might work best for Union Gap, Schilling said. They talked to state Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, about funding options. And in February 2019, they wrote and submitted a grant application with the state.

“In May 2019, we found out we had a $2 million grant,” said Schilling, who is vice chair of the nonprofit’s board.

That Department of Commerce use-it-or-lose-it grant in the state’s capital budget, secured with Honeyford’s help, will fund the library and community center, along with an additional financial commitment from the city of Union Gap.

The required majority of Union Gap voters approved a levy annexing the proposed library into the Yakima Valley Libraries district. It involved a property tax increase of about 43 cents per $1,000 in property value. That’s $43 annually for a house valued at $100,000, or $65 for a house valued at $150,000.

The partnership between Union Gap and Yakima Valley Libraries means the city builds and maintains the library, and the district, which has sites throughout Yakima County, provides the books, staffing and infrastructure, said Terry Osman, treasurer of the nonprofit.

The emphasis on fundraising is two-fold, supporters said. First, they’ll need to bridge any funding gaps created by a year of pandemic conditions impacting the costs of construction. The second is to be an ongoing source of financial support for programs, projects and resources.

In the next several weeks, they’ll be seeking donors who are interested in partnering with the nonprofit to raise funds for the commercial kitchen, the community center patio — which will extend the usable square footage of the Community Center by utilizing outdoor space — and general construction costs as increases occur.

In early March, Maralyn Killorn and Helen Canatsey co-chaired the Friends’ third book sale, held at the Valley Mall. Another is set for May 8.

Killorn, Canatsey and other volunteers worked to get the annexation vote passed, said Kathy Cluck, secretary of the nonprofit’s board.

“When they were working on the annexation vote, these older ladies were out going door to door and talking to people about the library. They’re out fundraising now, talking to owners of companies,” Cluck said. “This something they’re invested in. ... They care so deeply about Union Gap.”


National_news
top story
Eating our lunch: Biden points to China in development push
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — Pushing for trillions of dollars in development spending, President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers are directing Americans’ eyes to the rear-view mirror, pointing to a booming, ambitious China they say is threatening to quickly overtake the United States in global clout and capacity.

It’s a national security pitch for a domestic spending program: that the $2 trillion proposal for investments in U.S. transport and energy, manufacturing, internet and other sectors will make the United States more competitive in the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s massive infrastructure-

building campaign.

The argument is that competition today with China is more about economic and technological gains than arms — and its outcome will impact the United States’ financial growth and influence, its ability to defend U.S. security alliances and interests abroad, and the daily lives of Americans.

China under Xi has “an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world,” Biden said before launching his proposal last week. “That’s not going to happen on my watch because the United States is going to continue to grow and expand.”

That pitch hasn’t won over Republicans. They say his proposal has been loaded down with unnecessary spending projects and that raising taxes will ultimately hurt the U.S. economy.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans could support a “much more modest” approach, one that doesn’t rely on corporate tax hikes to pay for it. Biden’s plan is “something we’re not going to do,” McConnell said Monday.

To varying degrees, addressing infrastructure has bipartisan support. Americans are experiencing outages, delays and irritations on transport and power systems designed in the 1960s and earlier. Meanwhile, China’s latest five-year plan calls for hundreds more airports, coal-fired power plants and other standard infrastructure projects. Xi also is calling for his country to focus on “new infrastructure,” including investment in 5G networks and other digital infrastructure.

“Time and momentum are on our side,” Xi told a meeting of the Communist Party last year.

China spends more on infrastructure projects in other countries than the United States spends at home, said Jonathan Hillman, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. That and China’s long-running economic boom, fueled in part by its domestic infrastructure spending, are helping China become more influential internationally, and may give it more confidence as it makes claims over Taiwan and other contested territory or advances its interests, some argue.

Using urgent warnings of a rival’s advances to press for more infrastructure and research spending is a Cold War-tested technique. Past American presidents pointed to the Soviet Union while building up the U.S. highway system, space program and arms stockpiles.

And in the case of infrastructure, Biden’s repeated warnings that China and other countries are “eating our lunch” are borne out by many crucial metrics, and by the observations of almost anyone who’s traveled abroad much.

“Almost every day” in the U.S., service providers somewhere announce “the power is out, the Wi-Fi is out,” said Min Ye, a researcher at Boston University whose work focuses on China and the intersection of economics and security.

Pointing to her two decades living in the Boston area, Ye says she has seen no really big upgrades to tired local road networks, no bus route upgrades that would help her get into the city more easily, no rail upkeep that would make a train trip to New York to see friends more enticing.

While Ye was glad to see Boston Logan International Airport launch projects to spiff up its interior and parking, it’s been more than a quarter-century since the United States last built a new major airport, in Denver. Academic studies and economists claim the lost hours of delays in the air and on roads and rails cost billions of dollars in lost productivity.

And the federal government estimates 18 million Americans lack internet. What internet there is is expensive, compared to that of other big economies. It all led to scenes of U.S. workers and schoolchildren sitting in fast-food parking lots to do their work online this year as the pandemic shut down offices and schools.

Research done for the Group of 20 rich and developing nations estimates China’s infrastructure spending as a percentage of domestic production on track to be more than three times that of the United States.

In Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing legislation intended to pour technology research and development funding into the National Science Foundation and Commerce Department, to build U.S. semiconductor production, and to strengthen domestic technology supply chains.

Schumer’s aim, he says: “Bolster American competitiveness and counter the growing economic threats we face across the globe, especially from the Chinese Communist Party.”

Ordinary Americans could start to feel the impact of China’s investment in infrastructure and other support for the digital economy vs. the United States in ways big and small, said Hillman, the CSIS researcher. There could be minor annoyances, like one day finding it tough to track down a USB cable with the right metal bit that fits their laptop, because design standards could start following those of China’s booming market, not the United States’, Hillman said.

But “ultimately it will result in fewer jobs” in the United States, Hillman said. “That’s the thing that is going to be most immediate in day-to-day life.”

Ryan Hass, a former China director for the National Security Council in the Obama administration, cautions against overstating the threat that China’s rise poses to the United States. China is facing its own problems with debt, an aging population, and slowing gains in worker productivity, Hass said.

“If the United States makes progress in fixing some of its own problems, including its infrastructure deficit, it will remain highly competitive with China,” Hass said.


Local
centerpiece
As eviction moratorium nears end, Yakima advocates brace for surge in homelessness
  • Updated

Washington state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire June 30, and Yakima-area advocates are bracing for a surge in homelessness.

Scott Thielen, vice president of client services at the Yakima Union Gospel Mission, said the wave has been held back by the ongoing extension of the moratorium. Renters could be crushed by the weight of debt once they’re required to back pay months of accumulating rent.

“We fully expect that once that moratorium finally ends, we’re likely to see people out on the street,” Thielen said.

That’s the unintended consequence of a moratorium that’s gone on this long, he said.

The moratorium, which went into effect last March, prevents landlords from evicting tenants for failure to pay rent during the COVID pandemic. It also requires tenants to pay back any past rent once it lapses. It has been extended multiple times at the state and federal level, and is set to expire June 30.

Mike Kay, director of Camp Hope in Yakima, says he also expects a spike in people experiencing homelessness.

“Sooner or later, we’re going to see a ripple effect from being shut down for months and people not having jobs and being able to pay rent,” Kay said.

He added that he’s already seen some of the impact.

“It’s difficult to quantify exactly how many more people have become homeless in Yakima since the start of the pandemic, but we’re already seeing a lot more people who are visibly homeless than we have in the past,” he said.

Yakima’s lack of affordable housing, an ongoing crisis that began before the pandemic, is exacerbating the problem, Kay said.

Washington state saw one of the biggest estimated increases in people experiencing homelessness in the country between 2019 and 2020, at 6.2%, or 1,346 people, according to new figures from an annual report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Landlords have been vocal about their own struggles throughout the moratorium, and Kay and Thielen say they are sympathetic to those issues, too.

“Landlords have been really patient and have suffered alongside renters in some ways,” Kay said.

Thielen echoed Kay’s sentiments. “For a lot of landlords, that’s their livelihood. They still have to pay property taxes, insurance, utilities and a mortgage. ... A rental moratorium was a great idea but I don’t think it was completely thought out, because there just wasn’t time,” he said.

In Yakima, some landlords received rental assistance from the Yakima County Department of Human Services, which distributed $2.5 million in funding to local property owners and renters throughout the pandemic. Area churches and nonprofits also have provided financial help.

Craig Smith, a lawyer and former attorney for the Yakima Valley Landlords Association, said that assistance has been limited. Smith estimates that 15% to 20% of landlords have received money to help pay their outstanding bills.

“Landlords feel they’ve been asked to bear the brunt of this matter. A lot of them are not getting rich off 200 or 400 units. ... In Yakima, the average landlord is a widow with a fourplex,” Smith said. “They’re counting on that money for their livelihood or retirement, and they still have to pay property taxes and other expenses.”

Smith noted that eviction can be a lengthy and challenging process. He says he’s received calls from judges concerned about a flood of eviction cases that could overload area courts.

“There could be a substantial number of cases that will require multiple hearings. ... There is already a pent-up number of delayed cases and there may be an avalanche,” he said.

Rick Glenn, secretary at the Yakima Valley Landlords Association who owns several rental properties across Yakima County, says he’s lost over $100,000 and knows several landlords who have left the business or sold their properties during the moratorium.

“Most people can’t survive this,” Glenn said. “The assistance that’s been provided to landlords has been very minimal.”

Glenn says he’s sympathetic to renters, but wants a compromise that could work for both landlords and tenants.

“I’m not in the business of making people homeless,” he said. “If the government doesn’t work to keep the rental industry alive, there’s going to be a huge problem. How else we can meet the need for housing?”


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