Fittingly, the final item in Steve Dickerson’s post-game talk with his Pacific Lutheran University men’s team was addressing the basketball gods.
Thank you, he said.
Indeed, they were kind.
Off for much of the game, PLU’s Kyle Sawtell made the biggest shot of his Lutes career when the team needed it most.
Sawtell’s left-corner 3-pointer with five seconds to go gave PLU a hard-fought 59-57 victory Saturday night over Lewis & Clark at Olson Auditorium.
With it, the Lutes (10-9, 5-5 Northwest Conference) managed a weekend sweep of conference play at home, and stayed a game behind George Fox and Linfield for the final two playoff spots to the NWC tournament.
“I was wide open. I didn’t think about the time,” said Sawtell, who was 2-for-9 from the floor, and had only made one other shot — a 3-pointer — in the second half. “I just caught it and shot, and it felt good coming off the hand.”
Cory Coombe took one step past midcourt and heaved a prayer at the basket that hit high off the glass at the buzzer for the Pioneers (7-12, 4-6), who have lost four of their past five games.
“We’ve had plenty of games like this we’ve lost over the years,” Dickerson said. “So it evens out.”
Now winners of three games in row, the Lutes might look back at this thriller as the key if they reach the postseason.
Jared Christy, who had scored his team’s final 13 points before Sawtell’s game-winner, gave the Lutes a 56-54 lead on two free throws with 54.1 seconds remaining.
But Lewis & Clark regained the lead one final time on Alex Jones’ 3-pointer — the last of the Pioneers’ 13 made 3-pointers.
And it did not look good for PLU when Christy had the ball stolen from him off a drive by Lewis & Clark’s Markel Leonard with 25 seconds to go.
Cannen Roberson had a chance to extend the Pioneers’ lead, but missed the front end of a one-and-one at the free throw line.
Christy collected the rebound, and the Lutes were off and running.
“I don’t like guys who call timeout (to set up a final play), because it allows the defense to set up,” Dickerson said. “Just give to (Brandon) Lester. You want the ball in his hands.”
With time winding down, a pass came to Andrew Ardissone on the left elbow.
With a defender charging him, he whipped a pass to Sawtell in the corner.
The shot swished.
“This is huge,” Christy said. “We couldn’t lose at home, especially with the seeding and how the playoffs are looking right now. That would have been a huge loss.”
At Linfield 71, Puget Sound 59: Tyler Watts scored 14 points, and the Wildcats’ bench tallied 36 points in defeating the Loggers in McMinnville, Oregon.
UPS led, 42-41, after a Kohl Meyer free throw with 12:42 to go. But the Wildcats scored the next five points, and never trailed again.
Easton Driessen scored 14 points to lead Puget Sound (10-9, 3-7 NWC).
Tyler Watts led Linfield (12-7, 6-4) with 14 points.
Lewis & Clark 63, at PLU 52: A three-minute scoring spurt by the Pioneers to close the third quarter smothered the Lutes, sending them to their 12th consecutive loss at Olson Auditorium.
PLU’s Lacey Nicholson cut Lewis & Clark’s lead to 37-31 with two free throws at the 3:29 mark of the quarter.
The Pioneers scored 13 unanswered points to end the quarter — capped by Lauren Wood’s inside bucket for a 50-31 Lewis & Clark lead with 23 seconds remaining.
The Pioneers shot 73.3 percent in the third quarter, on 11 of 15 field goals.
Nicholson paced PLU (1-18, 0-10 NWC) with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Ayisat Afolabi led Lewis & Clark (14-5, 7-3) with 16 points.
No. 12 UPS 96, at Linfield 77: Samone Jackson tallied a career-high 37 points, Elizabeth Prewitt added 22 points and Alexis Noren chipped in 15 as the hot-shooting Loggers pounded the Wildcats in McMinnville, Oregon.
Jackson made 14 of 23 field goals, including seven 3-pointers. UPS (18-1, 10-0 NWC) shot 48.1 percent for the game.
Audrey McMillan and Molly Danielson led Linfield (9-10, 3-7) with 20 points apiece.