As soon as the second half of Northwest Conference play started, the Pacific Lutheran University men began keeping track of what it would take to earn one of the final spots to the postseason basketball tournament.
“The math sucked,” Lutes coach Steve Dickerson said. “Finally, we got down to (where) we have two more games, and we’ve got to win them both.”
One down, one to go.
And Tuesday night was a biggie as PLU blew out Puget Sound in the second half to post a 75-63 victory at Olson Auditorium in Parkland.
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It was one 3-point shot after another, too. The Lutes (12-12, 7-8 NWC) canned eight of them during an 8 1/2-minute span during a decisive 32-8 run. They made a season-high 15 3-pointers overall.
“It was the best win we’ve had all year,” Dickerson said.
The victory sets up a winner-take-all matchup Friday at home against Linfield for the final spot to the NWC tournament, assuming Lewis & Clark does not sweep nationally-ranked Whitman and Whitworth on the road this weekend.
That is all this Lutes’ group wanted was a shot to send the retiring Dickerson out with another trip to the postseason.
“It’s a senior night all of us dreamed about,” PLU guard Brandon Lester said. “It counts, It is a championship game for us.”
For much of the first 25 minutes, this was a game the Loggers (12-12, 5-10) controlled — much like the cross-town series recently in which they had won seven of the past eight meetings.
After a Stellan Roberts’ bucket, they led, 46-39, with 15:28 to go.
And that was the Loggers’ last hurrah.
PLU scored on 12 of its next 14 trips. Lester sank back-to-back 3-pointers. Kyle Sawtell hit one. Tyson Birrer added another one. Even Andrew Ardissone, who scored a career-high 12 points, hit one from the right corner.
“We were a lot more aggressive in the second half, especially getting to the hole,” Lester said. “We focused on driving, then kicking, and we were confident with our shots and we hit them.”
There was little UPS could do to slow the Lutes down. And the Loggers went cold, too, going scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes.
Lester led the Lutes with 22 points, Dylan Foreman added 20 points and Jared Christy had eight points and 20 rebounds.
Jimmy Wohrer paced UPS with 18 points, all in the first half.
“People have said to me, ‘These kids have quit,’ ” Dickerson said. “No, these kids never quit. Sometimes things just don’t go well.”
No. 6 UPS 91, at PLU 60: The Loggers are one game away from completing their first run of conference perfection ever.
Samone Jackson scored a game-high 28 points on 10-for-13 shooting for UPS (23-1, 15-0 NWC), which ran away for an easy victory at Olson Auditorium.
All that stands in the Loggers’ way of an unbeaten league season is a game at Pacific on Saturday night.
“This season has been all about setting milestones,” UPS coach Loree Payne said. “And that is a milestone we want this week.”
Jackson, the sophomore from Edmonds, also made six 3-pointers for the Loggers putting her at 77 for the season — one short of the school single-season mark of 78, set by Kilty Keaton in 2005-06.
An interesting development was that freshman Jamie Lange made her first career start for the Loggers. She finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds in 20 minutes.
“It was a move that we needed to make moving forward for (postseason) tournament play,” Payne said. “And the last three games, we’ve started out slow. That is something that can’t happen.”
And Lange did not disappoint, scoring nine points in the first quarter.
After that, Jackson took over, sinking three 3-pointers in a two-minute span at the end of the first half. Her final one with 2:12 to go gave the Loggers a 47-32 lead.
It was the fourth time UPS scored 90 or more points in a game this season.