ASHLAND, Ore. – The Lewis-Clark State College men’s basketball team made a couple of huge 3-pointers in the final six minutes and fought off a furious charge by Southern Oregon in an 87-84 victory to stay undefeated through the first nine games of the 2012-13 season.
In the final game for the Warriors at the Flagship Inn Classic on the Raiders’ home floor, LCSC led by eight points with 2:20 left in the game after Trey Sobotta’s 3-pointer, but needed some clutch free throws in the final minutes to hold off SOU.
“It’s the same story,” LCSC coach Brandon Rinta said. “Somebody different is stepping up every night, and we’re getting stops when we absolutely need them.”
Rinta said that perhaps the biggest factor in the Warrior victory was the defensive job that P.J. Bolte and Danny Marshall did on the Raiders’ Eric Thompson, the Preseason Player of the Year in the Cascade Collegiate Conference.
Thompson, who came into Saturday’s game averaging over 17 points per game, had just 10 on 2-for-12 shooting against the Warriors.
Thompson went off for 31, including the game-winner, in the game between these two teams in Lewiston last season.
“He’s a special offensive player, and it was a tremendous defensive effort by P.J. and Danny,” Rinta said. “If I had to point to one thing that was the difference in the game, that would probably be it.”
Jacob Champoux, who came into the game shooting an even 50 percent from the field as a perimeter player, bettered that mark on Saturday with a 25-point performance on 10-for-14 shooting.
Sixteen of those points came in the second half, including a killer 3-pointer with 5:25 left that put the Warriors up 77-70 after the lead changed on six consecutive possessions earlier in the period.
“I think it’s the third time he’s done this, where in the late stages of a game we’re able to give him the ball and trust him to make good decisions,” Rinta said of Champoux. “He stays on balance, and he’s so efficient when the ball leaves his hand that you almost have to think it’s going in.”
Champoux’s 3-pointer was followed up by a pair of free throws from Bolte, who had 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting for LCSC. The free throws gave the Warriors their largest lead of the game at 79-70, but the Raiders quickly cut the lead to five with 2:53 left.
Sobotta’s trifecta gave the Warriors breathing room, for a while.
“That shot was huge, and I felt like this weekend was a good step forward for Trey,” Rinta said. “It seemed like the game started to slow down for him and he looked really comfortable out there.”
Even after Sobotta’s potential dagger, Southern Oregon (6-3) fought back again. Thompson scored in the low post, two of 56 points in the paint for the Raiders, with 29 seconds left to make the score 82-80.
“You almost expected it after how crazy the rest of the game was,” Rinta said. “They made us earn it all the way to the end, but we gutted it out.”
Nick Fromm made the second of two free throws to give the Warriors a 3-point advantage with 20.5 seconds left, and Thompson missed a quick 3-point attempt to give LCSC the ball back with 9.5 seconds left. Bolte hit two free throws to make it a two-possession game, and Robert Ellis sank another pair with 4.2 ticks left.
The Warriors will take the court again on Thursday in an exhibition contest against Gonzaga at McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane. Barring the outcome of a game with Davidson on Sunday, both the Warriors and the No. 17 Bulldogs should be undefeated entering Thursday’s matchup.
“It would be hard not to be happy with the way we’ve been playing, and hopefully we can continue that on Thursday,” Rinta said. “We’re going to approach the game the same way we do any other game, but we want it to be a great experience for our players and our fans. Hopefully we can enjoy the moment a little bit more.”