EVERETT — Walla Walla Community College’s men’s basketball team, thanks in part to a 33-point effort by sophomore guard Damen Thacker, earned a berth in tonight’s Northwest Athletic Conference tournament championship game after beating Eastern Region rival Spokane, 76-65, on Saturday night at Everett Community College.
The Warriors, now 22-10 on the season, will play defending NWAC and Eastern Region regular-season champion North Idaho today at 4:45 p.m. for the tournament crown. The Cardinals beat Lane, 85-78, in Saturday’s first semifinal game.
“They’re obviously the big favorite so we’re just gonna have fun with it, give it our best shot and see where that takes us,” Warriors coach Jeff Reinland said.
The Walla Walla-Spokane tally was tied on six occasions through the first 11 minutes and change of the initial half. The latter time was at 18-18.
A 3-point field goal by Thacker at the 6:01 mark ended a 5-0 spurt that put WWCC in front, 23-18.
But Spokane retaliated with a 13-5 run over the next 4:14 and took a 31-28 advantage on a Dedrick Pakootas trey with 1:47 remaining.
Thacker tied the score on a three-point play 13 seconds later and Jake Albright put Walla Walla up, 34-31, on a 3-point shot with 1:04 to go.
The Warriors led 34-32 at halftime.
Thacker and David Howard scored 10 points apiece in the opening half to pace WWCC.
The Sasquatch commenced the second half with a 13-3 surge and took a 45-37 lead on a J.R. Delgado layup with 14:30 on the clock.
Thacker ended a 20-7 Walla Walla blitz on a 3 ball at the 8:36 mark that produced a five-point Warrior spread, 57-52.
Jake Costello twice upped the lead to eight — 66-58 on a jumper with 4:43 left and 68-60 on a layin at the 3:57 mark.
Thacker grew the margin to nine, 71-62, on an outside-the-arc effort with 2:30 on the clock.
Spokane got no closer than six the rest of the way.
“Damen had a big game and made a lot of big buckets for us, but really we had so many guys step up,” Reinland said. “There was Dillon Young coming off the bench to do a really good job defending one of their post players, Jake Costello making three really big driving buckets late in the game, and Kyler Villareal hitting some really big threes for us. But for the most part, we were not shooting the ball real well,” Reinland said. “It is our defense that was really good the whole game. That’s really how we got the win.”
Today’s appearance in the championship game will be the second for the WWCC program in three seasons. The Warriors won the title in 2017 and reached the quarterfinals last season.