Last weekend, shooting guard Matt Bender had a chance to give the University of Puget Sound men’s basketball team a come-from-behind victory at Willamette with a last-second 3-pointer — but missed.
Needless to say, the Steilacoom High School product was bummed.
“I told him to keep his head up,” UPS coach Justin Lunt said, “and at least you took it.”
Well a week later, Bender was given the same opportunity.
And this time, he knocked it down from the left corner with 1:28 remaining, leading the Loggers past Lewis & Clark, 64-62, in a key Northwest Conference game Saturday night at the Pamplin Sports Center in Portland.
The Pioneers (13-10, 8-6) had three shots in the final 17 seconds to send the game into overtime, but missed — including Jonathan Boddie’s short jumper with three seconds remaining.
UPS (12-10, 7-7 in NWC) moved into a tie with Willamette for fourth place in the conference. The top four move on to the NWC postseason tournament.
The Loggers host conference-leading Whitworth and second-place Whitman in the final weekend of the regular season Friday and Saturday at Memorial Fieldhouse.
“I am just excited for our guys,” Lunt said. “We are focused, and we played really well this weekend. We need to keep grinding through. We are trying to take it game by game.”
After the Pioneers took a 62-60 lead on Serg Ovchinnikov’s 3-pointer at the 1:45 mark, Lunt called on standout guard Erin Barber to try and get into the lane to sort out the team’s options.
One of those options was Bender standing alone in the corner. And as the Lewis & Clark defense collapsed on Barber, he made the crucial pass on the game-winning shot.
Bender added a free throw 33 seconds later.
Barber finished with a game-high 19 points. Nick Holden added 14, and Bender and Kohl Meyer each added 12 off the bench.
Sawtell hit two jump shots in PLU’s 6-0 run early in the second half that gave the Lutes a 32-23 lead.
With a home sweep next weekend, UPS (20-3, 11-3) would clinch the No. 2 seed and host a playoff game.
Megan Abdo scored 18 points for the Lutes (5-18, 2-12), including four 3-pointers. The rest of the team made just 10 field goals.