LEWISTON, Idaho – The fifth-ranked Lewis-Clark State College men’s basketball team withstood every challenge leveled by visiting Rocky Mountain, but made enough buckets down the stretch to pull out a 73-66 victory at the Activity Center on Saturday night.
The win, on the heels of an emotional Senior Night ceremony, allowed the Warriors to keep their half-game lead on MSU-Northern in the Frontier Conference race as the league schedule enters its final week.
With two games to play, LCSC is still in the driver’s seat for its first conference championship since 2008, despite victories by MSU-Northern and third-place Montana Western on Saturday.
Another victory by the Warriors (25-3 overall, 10-3 Frontier Conference) would guarantee them at least a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Nothing came easy for the Warriors against the Battlin’ Bears (16-12, 7-7), who gave the Warriors all they could handle in terms of post play and physicality.
“I couldn’t believe how physical it got out there,” LCSC coach Brandon Rinta said. “It seemed like every single shot was contested and drew contact. Rocky came out in the second half and played really well, and I think they had a little more fire than us for a while. But they never took the lead, and that’s a credit to our guys. It’s the third or fourth game in a row that they’ve found another level defensively.”
Lewis-Clark State held a 10-point lead at halftime despite shooting just 32 percent from the field and 0-for-8 from 3-point range. Offensive success eluded the Bears early on as well, as Rocky made just two of its first 20 field goal attempts.
But behind 6-foot-6 junior post Jeremy Nicolas and frontcourt partner Lincoln Powers, Rocky Mountain rallied to tie the game on two occasions, the latest coming at 51 apiece with just over seven minutes remaining.
LCSC answered, as they have so many times this season. Robert Ellis hit the Warriors only 3-pointer of the game (1-for-16) with 6:05 left to put the Warriors up by five. Donte Archie, one of four seniors honored before the game, finished a tough drive with 3:43 to go. And after Don Parham drove to the goal to bring Rocky to within two at 65-63 with 1:42 left, Ellis, Jacob Champoux and senior Danny Marshall scored unanswered buckets to ice the game.
All four seniors, Marshall, Archie, P.J. Bolte and Nick Fromm, played major roles in the victory in their final home regular season contest in front of 1,180 LCSC fans.
Marshall finished with 17 points and 8-for-9 shooting, and chipped in 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Bolte led all scorers with 18 points, including some big free throws down the stretch. Archie had nine points and 11 rebounds, and Fromm chipped in eight points.
“It’s a special group of guys, and to be able to control our own destiny heading into the final week is incredible,” Rinta said. “They’ve done a lot for this program – really taken it to another level.”
The Warriors finish their 2012-13 conference schedule at Montana Western on Friday followed by the regular-season finale at Carroll on Saturday before the Frontier Conference tournament begins on Feb. 27.