When the Puget Sound Loggers men’s basketball team crossed Interstate-5 to visit the Pacific Lutheran Lutes, it wasn’t just a rivalry game this time.
The Loggers needed a win to stay in the race to finish in the top four of the Northwest Conference and advance to the conference tournament.
It was a tight game , but Puget Sound prevailed, beating Pacific Lutheran, 61-54, at Names Family Court on Tuesday night.
Loggers guard Erin Barber snapped a 54-54 tie by taking a cross-court skip-pass from Matt Reid and draining a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1 minute, 14 seconds to play.
“We didn’t want to rush anything,” said Barber, who finished with eight points. “As the shot clock wound down, Matt came off a screen and I just kind of flared up and he found me.”
The Loggers built a 45-33 lead early in the second half before the Lutes began their comeback.
Pacific Lutheran’s streaking scorer Brandon Lester hit a 3-pointer during the rally that tied the game at 52-52.
“Lester’s been playing like one of the best guards in the league the last few weeks,” said Puget Sound coach Justin Lunt. “We tried our best to take him away — he’s tough. I thought our guys did a great job of executing that game plan.”
Lester finished with 11 points and was 1 for 6 from behind the 3-point arc. He had made 19 of 39 3-pointers in the previous five games.
Puget Sound (10-8, 5-5 Northwest Conference) moved into a tie for fourth place with Pacific (Oregon) University. The Loggers travel to Forest Grove, Oregon, to face the Boxers on Friday night.
“This weekend is really big for us,” said Lunt. “We have the tiebreaker over Pacific right now.”
Nick Holden led the Loggers with 15 points and seven rebounds. James Osorio added 13 points.
Pacific Lutheran dropped to 5-14 overall, and 3-7 in conference play. The conference loss was the first of the year for the Lutes at home.
Freshman guard Dylan Foreman scored 14 points to lead the Lutes.
Junior Emily Sheldon scored a game-high 21 points on 7 for 10 shooting and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds for the Loggers.
After taking a 31-22 lead into the break, Puget Sound built a 25-point lead in the second half. The Loggers shot 51.9 percent (14 of 27) from the floor in the second half, and 47.4 percent (27 of 57) for the game.
The victory kept Puget Sound (16-3, 7-3 NWC) a half-game behind third place Whitman (13-7, 8-3). The top four teams advance to the Northwest Conference tournament.
Junior forward Jori Hall had 12 points to lead Pacific Lutheran (4-15, 1-9).