Spokane captures Men's Basketball Championship
SPOKANE 91 WHACOM 84 stats
EVERETT, WA -- After his team lost its final two regular season games, Community Colleges of Spokane coach Jeremy Groth said the tournament trail could have gone one of two ways.
As it turned out, it went all the way to championship.
Levi Taylor capped off a tournament MVP performance with 21 points and five other players scored in double figures to pace the Sasquatch to a 91-84 victory over Whatcom in the title game of the NWAC men's basketball tournament on Sunday night.
"We used that as motivation," Groth said of the back-to-back losses to close out the regular season. "That got a fire burning in our belly. Obviously looking back on it, we'll take those two losses now, knowing what the end result is. That's a credit to our guys."
The title was the second in the NWAC for the Sasquatch (29-5), who also won in 2000 and were runner-up in 2008. Spokane also won the WSJCAC title in 1967.
Garrett Hull scored 14 points, AJ Knudsen 13, Dalton Patchen 12, and Jacob Devries and Race Martin each added 10 for Spokane, which upended top-ranked East Region rival Big Bend in the semifinals.
Leif Anderson had 18 points and Logan Schilder added 16 points and 13 rebounds for Whatcom (23-10), which entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed in the North Region.
The Sasquatch were 13-of-22 from beyond the arc en route to a 54-39 halftime lead and then turned back several runs in the second half.
"They're a solid team," Taylor said of Whatcom. "We knew they were ready and we knew we had to come with it all."
Connor Kelley scored on a drive to pull Whatcom within 58-49, but Spokane responded with a 10-point run, capped by AJ Knudsen's jumper from the top of the key with 10:43 remaining to make it 68-49.
The Orcas put together a 12-2 spurt, cutting the lead to 74-65 on two free throws by Kelly with 6:31 left.
Two free throws by Garrett Hull gave Spokane an 83-74 lead with 1:53 left, but Whatcom pulled within 83-77 with 1:07 remaining.
The Orcas were forced to foul in the foul minute and the Sasquatch hit 8-of-12 free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.
The title completed a four-game tournament run by the Sasquatch, who lost their final two regular season games, and included the victory over Big Bend to avenge a pair of conference losses.
The Sasquatch, who never trailed, hit six 3-pointers early to open a 23-13 lead with 13:54 left in the first half.
Casey Leek's driving layin capped a seven-point run that pulled the Orcas within 34-32, but Spokane went back to the perimeter for six 3-pointers and an 18-1 run to push the lead to 52-33 with 1:30 left in the half.
"Our defense dictated our offense," Groth said. "That big run we went on started at the defensive end and we hit the shots because of that. All year long, we've hit the shot, but couldn't get stops. This tournament, when it mattered the most, our defense came through and our offense followed."
Taylor, who had a tournament-high 87 points in four games, was 7-of-15 from the field against Whatcom.
"I'm so happy, I'm so proud, I can't even explain it," said Taylor, who had 31 points in the 77-66 semifinal victory over Big Bend. "I'm so happy I was able to come through for our coaches and our team. I knew we had it. We worked all year long for this."
MVP -Levi Taylor, Spokane
Leif Anderson, Whatcom
Race Martin, Spokane
Dalton Patchen, Spokane
Logan Schilder, Whatcom
Ryker Pierce, Big Bend
Bryan Berg, Clark
Morgan Latto, Big Bend
Andrew Reddout, Columbia Basin
Jacob DeVries, Spokane||
Matthew Seymour, Whatom
Art Fiero Most Inspirational
Garret Hull, Spokane
Most Inspirational - Garret Hull and MVP Levi Taylor