The Western Washington University men's basketball alumni rode strong performances from their post players and held off a late charge by the Bellingham Slam, winning 130-125 in the annual Back 2 Bellingham Battle held at the Wade King Center on Saturday evening.
The Alumni victory was their first in three tries against the Slam. The exhibition series, which takes place during WWU's busy alumni celebration weekend each May, was first started in 2015.
A layup just ten seconds in by Viking alum center David Gage would set the stage for a huge night from WWU's big men. Gage and center Anye Turner combined for 60 points and wreaked havoc on the Slam defense, dominating the boards all night.
After the Alumni built a 27-20 advantage to open the second quarter, the Slam used a trio of three-pointers from center Lukas Henne and guards Chris Ferguson and Mo Anderson to take a 29-27 lead. Western responded by outscoring the Slam 23-12 in the last five minutes of the quarter, thanks in part to three treys from guard Robert Harris, to take a 56-44 lead into halftime.
The Slam were unable to make much headway in the third quarter, only trimming their double-digit deficit to nine on three separate occasions. A three-pointer by Harris to close the period, his fifth of the night, gave the Alumni a 89-75 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Alumni appeared to be cruising to a big win with under six minutes remaining before the Slam finally unleashed the full potential of their offense. Trailing 106-83, Bellingham used a big run to cut the deficit to six points, at 124-118, on a layup by guard Trazil Lane with just under minute left. The Slam got even closer, within three in the games waning moments on a bucket by forward Tyler Amaya, but solid free-throw shooting by the Alumni down the stretch preserved the victory for Western.
The loss overshadowed a prolific fourth-quarter shooting performance for the Slam, which finished the frame with an even 50 points, including 39 in the final 5:40 alone.
Gage led the alumni with 31 points on 14-for-21 shooting, while Turner had 29 to go along with a game-high 19 rebounds. Harris finished with 27 points on 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Kyle Impero was one assist away from a triple-double totaling 18 points (7-for-12 FG), 10 rebounds and 9 assists.
Guard Paul Hafford led the Slam with a game-high 32 points, while guard Jacob Stevenson finished with 21. Guard Jared Stevenson also had a strong game with 18 points, including 12 during the Slam's late comeback attempt.
Copy shared by the Bellingham Slam
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