University of Puget Sound

College basketball: UPS Loggers advance to title game

Ben Zimmerman

Contributing writer

The sounds bled through the walls of the visitor’s locker room deep under the Sherwood Athletic Center.

<p>Primal howls, the staccato bang of fists against lockers. </p>

<p>Then, a hush.</p>

<p>&ldquo;That was when Coach walked in,&rdquo; said junior Rex Nelson, the University of Puget Sound&rsquo;s aircraft carrier of a power forward.</p>

<p>The facial expression on coach Justin Lunt was a shocker.</p>

<p>"We're used to a serious face," Nelson said. "This time, he opened up with a smile. That's when the roars came back."</p>

<p>And why not? UPS kept its season alive by surviving a meat grinder of a Northwest Conference tournament semifinal Thursday, holding off Whitman, 71-66, to advance to the title game against Whitworth in Spokane on Saturday.</p>

<p>Nelson had a game-high 25 points, Erin Barber added 13 and </p>

<p>A.J. Maw 12 for the Loggers (15-11), who sealed the game at the free-throw line in the final seconds.</p>

<p>The free throws &ndash; two by Nick Holden for a three-point lead with 17 seconds left, and two from Maw for the final margin &ndash; capped a game slathered in the fingerprints of two defenses that made it tough on the offenses.</p>

<p>There were statistical markers &ndash; the Loggers&rsquo; 18 turnovers, Whitman&rsquo;s 17.9 percent shooting on 3-pointers &ndash; that underlined that fact.</p>

<p>&ldquo;That was the most physical game I played in all year,&rdquo; said Nelson, who was 11-for-18 from the floor. &ldquo;It felt like a football game.&rdquo;</p>

<p>In a second half that saw seven ties and nine lead changes over the final 13 minutes, 24 seconds, UPS took the lead for good on Maw&rsquo;s driving bucket at the 1:40 mark. And it matched the Missionaries stop-for-stop, holding the second-seeded hosts without a basket for the final 3:13.</p>

<p>"Each game, we've grown as a team,&rdquo; Nelson said. "We worked hard and battled in practice. That's what put us in position to win a game like this."</p>

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<p><strong>WOMEN'S BASKETBALL</strong></p>

<p><strong></strong><strong>At Whitman 77, UPS 60:</strong> The Loggers had no answer for conference player of the year Heather Johns and faded down the stretch in a loss in Walla Walla that likely ended their season.</p>

<p>Johns scored a career-high 30 points on 12-for-18 shooting and added six rebounds and six assists for the Missionaries, the top-ranked team in the nation.</p>

<p>She took over the game late in the first half, scoring 13 of her 19 first-half points inside the final 7:33 on a series of leaners and jumpers in the lane. </p>

<p>She also assisted on a pair of 3-pointers as Whitman closed the half on a 13-2 run for a 41-26 lead.</p>

<p>UPS (14-12) carved its deficit to six points on Emily Sheldon&rsquo;s basket with 10:23 left in the second half, but Johns, who had asked out of the game to stretch cramping calves, checked back in and scored 10 points down the stretch.</p>

<p>Amanda Forshay had 14 points for the Loggers, but was held to two after halftime. The all-conference junior forward was 6-for-7 shooting in the first half but was 1-for-8 in the second. Taylor Jones added 12 points and Sheldon nine for UPS.</p>

<p>Whitman (26-0) will host Whitworth in the conference title game Saturday.

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