PENDLETON — When Walla Walla switched to a zone defense during the final couple of minutes of the first half here Wednesday night, Warriors coach Jeff Reinland liked what he saw.
So he stayed with it in the second half and WWCC pulled away to an 88-75 victory over Blue Mountain in a Northwest Athletic Conference East Region men’s basketball game.
“I saw that the zone bothered them a little bit,” Reinland said. “So we tried it again in the second half and we stayed with it the rest of the game.”
Walla Walla outscored Blue Mountain 46-32 in the second half after trailing by as many as nine points in the first half. The Warriors were able to claw back to within 43-42 before the halftime horn sounded.
“We opened up and got up 10 or 11 points early in the game,” Reinland said. “But then they went on a big run and we were down by nine points. We made a little run to cut it to one and then took control of the game in the second half.”
Freshman post Roman McKnight stayed out of foul trouble for the most part and led the Warriors with 27 points and nine rebounds.
“Roman can be real effective when he is on the floor, he just has to learn to adjust to the way the game is being called,” Reinland of his foul-prone rookie. “He has to learn that his opinion doesn’t matter. I’ve been playing and coaching easily for over 40 years and I have never changed a call.”
Freshman guard Darrian Caffaro-Briggs came off the bench to score 20 points and dish out eight assists for the Warriors. Dalton Thompson and Payton Radliff were also in double figures with 17 and 12 points, respectively.
Blue Mountain’s D’Quan Crockett and Luke Meyers combined for 46 points and Jared Mathews snagged nine rebounds to go with eight points.
Walla Walla put up two fewer shots from the floor than did the Timberwolves, but the Warriors made two more field goals, including an 11-for-24 effort from behind the 3-point arc.
“I thought for the most part we took pretty good shots,” Reinland said. “The weird thing was, we missed some open ones and some of the tougher ones we made. But for the most part we executed pretty well and played pretty good defense, especially in the second half.”
The Warriors bumped their East Region record to 2-4 and improved to 8-13 overall. Blue Mountain fell to 0-6 in the region and 9-12 for the year.
“Blue Mountain’s not that bad,” Reinland said. “They’re not super big, but they are pretty athletic.”
Walla Walla travels to Pasco Saturday to take on Columbia Basin in a game that will top off the first round of regional play. The Warriors open the second round Feb. 6 when they entertain Blue Mountain in the Dietrich Dome.