Feb. 18, 2012
ELLENSBURG, Wash. - Western Washington University's 10-game winning streak came to an end Saturday as the nationally ranked Vikings were defeated by Central Washington University, 89-82, in a Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's basketball contest Saturday at Nicholson Pavilion on the CWU campus.
The Vikings, ranked No.10 in this week's National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 Poll, and the top team in this week's NCAA Division II West Region ratings, fell to 23-4 overall but remain first in the GNAC at 14-2. Forward Rory Blanche (Sr., Ashland, OR) led WWU with 22 points, 18 of them in the first half, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Guard Lacy Haddock paced the Wildcats with 21 points, including the go-ahead basket with 3:33 to play. Central improved to 13-11 overall and 7-9 in GNAC play.
WWU held a 78-77 lead with four minutes left, but Haddock made the first of two free throws to tie the game. Haddock missed the second free throw, but reserve Kevin Davis, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, grabbed the miss, and a few seconds later, Haddock drove the lane for the basket that put Central up for good at 80-78.
The Vikings failed to score on their next three possessions, and although they pulled within three points twice in the final 36 seconds, never had the ball with a chance to tie in the final 1:54.
The loss snapped WWU's GNAC-record eight straight road win streak and left the Vikings one triumph short of being the first team in the 11-year history of league to go undefeated in conference road games.
WWU still needs just one triumph in its final two games to clinch first place in the regular-season standings and earn the top seed in the GNAC tournament.
Central held a 69-64 lead with under nine minutes left, but WWU ran off nine straight points to take a 73-69 lead on a driving layin by guard Rico Wilkins (Jr., Dallas, TX/DeSoto) with 6:29 left.
Blanche, who had a string of consecutive free throw makes end at 20, was the only Viking to have a field goal in the first 10 minutes, scoring 18 of WWU's first 22 points before going to the bench with his second foul with 8:30 left in the first half. The Vikings held a 39-35 lead at halftime.
Central shot 52.7 percent (29-of-55) from the field, and had 20 more free throws than WWU, going 30-of-38 (78.9 percent). The Vikings were 11-of-18 at the line (61.1 percent).
WWU completes its regular season with two home contests, entertaining Seattle Pacific University on Thursday (7 p.m.) and Montana State University Billings on Saturday (7 p.m.) in GNAC contests.
Central men knock off regional No. 1 Western
by Roger Underwood, Yakima Herald-Republic
ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Last year they were on cloud 9, relishing their roles as prime players on one of the best teams in Central Washington's illustrious basketball history.
This year? Not so much.
Seniors Jody Johnson and Roby Clyde have taken their lumps with the rest of a CWU squad that has struggled, especially in key moments of close games.
Saturday night in Nicholson Pavilion, however, all was forgotten.
With Clyde playing one of his best games of the season and Johnson making four crucial free throws in the final half minute, the Wildcats celebrated senior night by upsetting cross-mountain rival Western Washington 89-82 to snap the Vikings' 10-game winning streak and greatly enhance their own GNAC playoff hopes.
The win enabled CWU to maintain its one-game lead over Northwest Nazarene in the race for the sixth and final conference tournament berth. Each team has two games left, and Central (7-9 GNAC, 13-11 overall) must win the bid outright since the Crusaders own the first tiebreaker, having swept the season series.
The 10th-ranked Vikings (14-2, 23-4), still lead the conference race, but might have seen their No. 1 NCAA Division II West Region ranking jeopardized.
"This was huge -- it's hard to even describe how good this feels," Central coach Greg Sparling said afterward. "Now we really control our own destiny."
CWU visits Saint Martin's on Thursday and Western Oregon on Saturday, having beaten the Saints while losing to the Wolves at home earlier this season.
"I like our chances," said Sparling, whose 26-4 squad claimed the conference's regular-season and tournament titles last year. "These guys will be focused, and we're playing much better now than when we played both of those teams earlier."
Point guard Lacy Haddock led Central with 21 points. Kevin Davis and Brandon Magee came off the bench for 17 and 14 points, respectively, with Davis also grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking two shots.
Clyde, utilizing his left-handed jump hook, helped establish the Wildcats inside by making 6 of 9 field goals for 12 points while also grabbing six boards. And Johnson, the former Yakima Valley Community College standout, was money from the foul line when it mattered most.
"This is such a great feeling and such a great win for this team," he said. "I've dreamed about being in a position like this, to win a game at the end, and thank God I was able to knock them down."
Western, which brought a .497 field goal percentage into the game, including .398 from 3-point range, led 46-37 with 18:01 left to play on a 3-pointer by John Allen.
But CWU stormed back, with Magee scoring 12 points during a pivotal 1:44 stretch that saw the Wildcats snap a 57-all tie and assume a 67-61 advantage.
Western regrouped to lead as late as the 4:07 mark, but a free throw and following layup by Haddock put Central in front for keeps. Johnson's free throws, the first two coming with 31.8 seconds left and the final pair at 24.6, sealed it.
The Wildcats, attacking the basket against WWU's man-to-man defense, made 30 of 38 free throws compared with 11 of 18 for the Viks, who shot only 44.9 percent from the field.
Western, which beat Central 99-86 in Bellingham on Jan. 18, was seeking to become the first team to post an unbeaten GNAC road record.
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