Forced to regroup a week after second-leading scorer Marcus McKone suffered a possible season-ending knee injury, Walla Walla Community College came together for a dominating second half that lifted the Warriors to an 81-64 blowout of Wenatchee Valley in their men’s basketball matchup here on Wednesday.
Kendall Watson set his new season-high with 25 points to lead WWCC (17-7 overall, 8-2 in the East Divison), while teammate Damen Thacker hit four 3-pointers on his way to 23 points — his most since putting up 28 against Yakima Valley on Jan. 15 — and Landon Radliff had 12 points.
“It was a good win for us,” Warriors coach Jeff Reinland said. “I think it might have answered a few questions. Our guys were a littl bit apprehensive with Marcus being out. We know it’s hard but we can continue.
“We’re just a little different,” he said. “We’ve got to get some guys to step up. Damen hasn’t had a game like this in probably five or six games. He stepped up.”
The win enable WWCC to keep pace with North Idaho atop the East Division standings, as the Cardinals picked up a 95-55 win at Columbia Basin.
WWCC next hosts sixth-place Big Bend on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Warriors await results of an MRI that McKone underwent before Wednesday’s game against Wenatchee.
The freshman, averaging 15.3 points per game, collapsed while maneuvering on a dribble around mid-court with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter of WWCC’s overtime loss at Spokane on Jan. 31. He had just hit three consecutive 3-pointers.
After talking with the Spokane trainer and McKone, Reinland suspected the freshman had torn an anterior cruciate ligament — an injury he had already gone throuwgh with his other knee.
McKone sat out of uniform Wednesday, and watched from the bench as the Warriors struggled to develop much consistency in the first half and rallied late to take a 40-39 into the break.
The second half was a different story.
“We really played good (defensive), especially the second half,” Reinland said. “The first half, we stuck to our game plan but (Wenatchee) did a good job executing against us and got a lot of lay-ins, crossed us up on a few things.
“The second half, I think when we started trapping the on-ball a little bit, it kinda changed things,” he continued. “It made (Wenatchee) think a lot. I think it changed the game for us.
“We’ve got shoot the ball a little better. That’s where Marcus — that’s a big loss for us, not having Marcus. I think we’ve got the guys who are capable of doing it. We’ve just got to go do it.”
Warriors 81, Knights 64
WENATCHEE VALLEY (64) — Martin 31, Shurtliff 11, Warner 8, Dorius 5, Dowdy 4, Gardner 3, Wabaunsee 2.
WALLA WALLA COMMUNITY COLLEGE (81) — Watson 25, Thacker 23, Radliff 12, Porter 9, Albright 8, Engstrom 4.
Halftime — Walla Walla, 40-39. 3-point goals — Wenatchee 2, Walla Walla 8. Total fouls — Wenatchee 12, Walla Walla 19. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — Wenatchee 36, Walla Walla 41. Turnovers — Wenatchee 18, Walla Walla 9. Assists — Wenatchee 2, Walla Walla 8.