SPOKANE, Wash. – The Lewis-Clark State College men’s basketball team dominated the interior and turned up the heat defensively in the second half en route to a 72-61 victory over Northwest Christian (Ore.) on Saturday night in its final contest at the Red Lion Challenge.
After withstanding a 3-point barrage in their win on Friday night while tossing in some long-range shots of their own, the Warriors turned to the low block to vanquish the Beacons and increase their best-ever start to 7-0.
Forty-four of the Warriors 72 points in the game were scored in the paint, and LCSC kept possessions alive with a whopping 22 offensive rebounds, topping the number of total boards amassed by Northwest Christian.
“The offensive rebounding was the biggest key. You don’t even have to look at the stats to know that was the biggest difference in the game,” Warrior coach Brandon Rinta said. “They were way bigger than us, but our guys did a really good job of crashing the boards.”
P.J. Bolte led all scorers with 20 points in the game on 7-for-16 shooting, and tacked on five rebounds for the Warriors, similar to several other occasions during the team’s 7-0 start it was an energy play by redshirt freshman Tommy Sperry that was an igniter.
The Clarkston native turned his own steal into a layup on the other end that gave the Warriors a six-point lead – their largest to that point – at 49-43 with 11 minutes to go.
“We hoped to get more of those during the game, but Northwest Christian did a really nice job of getting back in transition,” Rinta said. “For Tommy to get in the lane there and take that thing coast to coast was a big spark for us.”
After Sperry’s play, the Warriors’ next seven field goals came on the interior, as LCSC was able to grind down the smaller Beacons.
Nick Fromm had 10 of his 16 points in the second half and was the beneficiary of some nifty looks from his teammates.
The Beacons got within three points at 62-59 with 4:35 to go, but a bucket by Fromm, two free throws by Bolte and a putback by Danny Marshall comprised an 8-0 run that effectively sealed the game for Lewis-Clark State.
Wyatt Taboh-Graziano had 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting for Northwest Christian, and Jordan Buhler added 15 for the Beacons, who shot 55 percent from the field in the game.
The challenges away from home keep on coming for the unbeaten Warriors, who will face Southern Oregon and Oregon Tech, two top Cascade Collegiate Conference squads, in a tournament at SOU next Friday and Saturday.
Oregon Tech won the NAIA Division II national championship last season.
“It’s going to be fun,” Rinta said. “It’ll be a great challenge playing the defending national champions, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”