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2018 Men's Final Four - Evans pours in 29 as Cardinals advance to first NWAC title game

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North Idaho 79, Portland 73 stats

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RayQuan Evans scored 29 points and the North Idaho bench took up the slack for injured Tyler Brimhall as the Cardinals advanced to the championship game of the 2018 Men’s NWAC Basketball Tournament with a 79-73 win over Portland.

North Idaho, the third seed out of the East Region, improved to 24-8 overall and will meet Peninsula in the championship game Sunday. Portland, the South Region’s No. 1 seed, ended its season at 23-6.

Brimhall played only 11 minutes and did not score in the game, but Evans made 9 of 17 field goals and 10  of 12 free throws to the lead the Cardinals. He was joined in double figures by Charles Williams with 15 points and Aushanti Potts-Woods and Seth Christiaens with 11 each.

Portland was led by the 17 points of KJ Bosco. Lane Josi and Cameron Retherford scored 16 apiece.

“Losing Tyler hurt, he’s our Division 1 transfer,” NIC coach Corey Symons said. “He’s our leader and he’s one of our best rebounders and one of our leading scorers. It was tough losing him, but we had guys with big minutes off the bench. We had a couple of injuries there and got in some foul trouble, but we’re pretty deep on the bench.”

Trailing 27-17, a 3-pointer by Portland’s Jacob Powell with 4:50 left in the half ended a 6-0 NIC run and cut the Cardinal lead to 27-20. That was the last field goal of the half for Portland until a trey by KJ Bosco with one second left in the half made it 29-26 NIC at the break.

Portland was guilty of 12 first-half turnovers and shot just 29 percent (9 of 31) from the floor.

The lead changed hands four times in the first 10 minutes of the second half until the Cardinals took the lead for good at 48-47 on a basket by Evans with 10:48 left in the game. Portland’s Lane Josi went to the bench with four fouls at the 10:44 mark, and NIC created some space with an 8-0 run, four of the points by Evans. That made it 56-47 with 9:06 left.

But the Panthers would not go quietly. They cut the Cardinal lead to 56-55 and had the ball with a chance to take the lead but could not capitalize.

Two huge baskets by Aushanti Potts-Woods helped the Cardinals expand their lead, and they were able to pull away for the six-point win.

“Aushanti is playing great,” Symons said. “Coaches hate to say ‘gamers’ but when it comes game time, he’s ready to play. He played really well for us.”

Symons also had praise for his point guard Evans. “He’s having a great tournament.”

Potts-Woods and Evans both had good words for their teammates.

“I like how everybody came together to play,” Potts-Woods said. “One of our guys went down, next man up.”

Said Evans: “Coach talks about getting downhill, that’s what he emphasizes on the offensive end, so when we score it helps with our defense as well.”

Both Cardinals are excited to be in the championship game.

“It’s ring time,” Potts-Woods said. “It’s time to go win.”

“I want to do it for the school and the coaches and these guys who put in so much work,” Evans said, nodding toward Potts-Woods. “That’s really why I’m trying to win this, and we’re right there so we gotta go get it.”

Symons expects a battle from Peninsula.

“Peninsula does a great job,” he said. “They have a great program, and it’s gonna be a dogfight.

“And it’s big for us,” he continued. “Everybody sets that goal, and our staff went out and recruited and this was part of our goal when the season started. We’ve had some ups and downs but it’s big for us, it’s big for our program, obviously being new to the NWAC. We’re excited to be here, but we’re gonna try to see if we can not just be excited to be here, but to go finish something.”

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