It went off as the PLU Thanksgiving Classic, but Saturday felt more like the spookiness of Halloween.
The Lutes’ tournament finale against the University of Dallas might not have started pretty, but in the end, PLU worked out its issues.
Kyle Sawtell scored all of his game-high 18 points in the second half, and the Lutes wrapped up their event with a 75-66 victory over the Crusaders at Olson Auditorium in Parkland.
Brandon Lester added 14 points, and Jared Christy had 10 points and 19 rebounds as PLU completed the weekend two-game sweep over its out-of-state contingent.
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The day started off eerily: PLU coach Steve Dickerson informed his staff he would not be available after suffering a bout of food poisoning Friday night.
Whether that was the reason the Lutes started off slowly or not, PLU instantly got down 12-2 in the first 4:02, turning the ball over on four of its first six possessions.
“(Dickerson being absent) wasn’t something exactly we are used to,” Sawtell said. “We dug ourselves a hole.”
But when the Lutes (4-2) rely on their hustling defense, they usually can avoid disaster.
“We just calmed down a little bit,” said Wayne Gibson, the Lutes’ top assistant coach. “We were out of sorts.”
Their key stretch came early in the second half.
Dallas’ Prince Giadolor is a strong, fearless guard who is tough to slow down when he gets a head of steam driving to the basket.
But he challenged PLU’s big men at the 17:27 mark of the second half — and Lutes center Garth West blocked the layup with ease.
On the next trip, Giadolor went right at West and Jared Christy. Again, the shot was rejected, leading to Sawtell’s 3-pointer in transition that gave PLU its first lead, 36-35.
Giadolor tried it a third time in a row. And he had no such luck — Christy slapped the shot away.
It led to a Sawtell three-point play on the other end.
“Those blocks were huge, and when it happened, the ball is usually sent outside the 3-point line,” Sawtell said. “It got us some easy baskets.”
PLU scored on eight of 10 possessions during a 19-6 run to take a 52-41 advantage with 11:39 to go.
“We are good when we get out and run with the ball,” Gibson said.
Sawtell sank three 3-pointers, including two in the final 6:50.
Puget Sound 91, Whittier College (Calif.) 71: Carlos Mancasola tallied a team-high 15 points, and the Loggers swept both games at the cross-town holiday tournament.
UPS opened the second half on a 7-0 run, capped by Zach Miller’s turnaround one-handed jumper in the lane, to grab a 47-29 lead at the 18:10 mark.
Jimmy Wohrer added 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Miller also finished with 14. Conner Longmire led all scorers with 20 points for the Poets (1-2)
The Loggers (4-1) open Northwest Conference play Friday by hosting Linfield at Memorial Fieldhouse.