Walla Walla Community College
Men's Basketball

Cardinals end Warriors eight-game win streak

Walla Walla’s eight-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Monday afternoon in the Dietrich Dome, and it was not entirely unexpected.


That doesn’t mean it wasn’t disappointing.


East Region-leading North Idaho stormed into town and punished the Warriors 100-69 in the Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball game that was originally scheduled Feb. 18, but was postponed until Monday because of bad weather.


The defending NWAC champion Cardinals have now won 14 straight games, bumped their league record to 13-0 and clinched the East title with Monday’s victory. North Idaho improved to 24-2 overall.


Walla Walla, which hadn’t lost since a 101-76 defeat at the hands of North Idaho Jan. 12 in Coeur d’Alene, saw its record slip to 10-3 in the East and 16-10 on the year. The defending East champion Warriors were the only team within reach of North Idaho going into Monday’s game, but the Cardinals’ series sweep of Walla Walla assured the visitors of the region’s No. 1 seed into next month’s NWAC Championships in Everett.


The Warriors are still hanging on to second place in the region with three games to play.


Walla Walla leads Spokane (9-4, 18-8) by one game and Big Bend (7-6, 17-7) by three games heading into Wednesday’s game at Blue Mountain (2-10, 4-19). A victory over the Timberwolves coupled with a Spokane loss at North Idaho Wednesday would nail down second place for the Warriors.


Walla Walla closes out the regular season next week with home games against Columbia Basin (2-10, 5-19) and Big Bend. Spokane hosts CBC next Monday in a makeup game and finishes at home against Blue Mountain while Big Bend hosts Wenatchee (4-8, 12-11) Wednesday and plays at Blue Mountain Friday before taking on the Warriors next week.


All scenarios considered, veteran WWCC coach Jeff Reinland is anything but comfortable.


“I’m worried about my team, I’m not kidding you,” Reinland said if the aftermath of Monday’s beatdown. “And I’m really disappointed. I thought we’d be ready to go, but then we missed so many shots and got discouraged. It’s not like we didn’t try, but we seemed to lose our spirit. I think we did too much complaining tonight, and I don’t know why we were so shocked when things didn’t go our way. That’s my biggest disappointment.”


The Warriors grabbed a quick five-point lead on a 3-pointer by David Howard and a 17-footer from Damen Thacker in the game’s first minute. But North Idaho quickly assumed control and led 19-10 on a rebound basket by 6-foot-9 Jarod Greene with 10:37 showing on the first-half clock.


Walla Walla fought back and tied the game at 25-25 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Keeshawn Clarke and Thacker and a 2-pointer by Forrest Smith at the 6:16 mark. By the intermission, however, the Cardinals led 40-29 on Evans’ steal and breakaway dunk in the final seconds.


“This game in the first half was very similar to the game we played up there,” Reinland said. “We were only down 11 points, we held them to 40 points and I thought we were all right. And then we come out and miss some open shots to begin the second half and it just continued. We missed so many open shots. If we’d have made some of those open shots, it’s a game.”


The Warriors were 23-for-67 from the field overall, 34 percent, and they made just 13 of their 48 attempts form 3-point distance, 27 percent.


“You can’t shoot that poorly against a team like North Idaho,” Reinland said.


The Cardinals, by contrast, shot 50 percent from the field and dominated the backboards 48-34. They accrued 10 steals and forced the Warriors into 13 turnovers, with many of those steals and turnovers leading to fast-break layins.


Evans led six North Idaho players in double figures with 24 points. Phillip Malatare scored 16 points and James Carlson came off the bench to contribute 14. Malatare led the way with 13 rebounds while Evans dished out four assists and was credited with six steals.


Thacker led the Warriors with 16 points, albeit on 5-for-17 shooting overall and 2-for-13 from 3-point distance. Howard added 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting, all of them taken from downtown.


Jake Albright, WWCC’s stellar sophomore post, collected a team-high seven rebounds and a team-best four assists, but he was smothered in the paint by the Cardinals’ tenacious defense. Albright was 0-for-5 from the field and scored his only four points at the free-throw line.


“They kind of took Jake out of the game,” Reinland said. “But I think Jake kind of took himself out of the game as well. But the bottom line,” he added, “we got beat by a better team. But we’re done with them now, we don’t have to worry about them again unless it’s for the NWAC championship.”


Article by Jim Buchan of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin

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