ONTARIO, Ore. — Walla Walla led Treasure Valley 40-38 at halftime here Wednesday night after a back-and-forth first 20 minutes in which neither could establish a sizeable lead.
It was still tight when the Chukars’ Kaleo Pogue hit a basket with 13:42 remaining for a 52-51 Treasure Valley lead.
But 10 seconds later Damen Thacker sank a 3-pointer for a 54-52 WWCC lead and the Warriors were off and running and on their way to a 94-88 Northwest Athletic Conference Eastern Region men’s basketball victory.
David Howard’s 3-point basket at the eight-minute mark gave the visiting Walla Wallans their biggest lead of the game, 79-63, and the Warriors held the Chukars at bay down the stretch for their eighth consecutive victory.
“It was not our best game,” WWCC coach Jeff Reinland said of his team’s second victory over Treasure Valley this season. “We seemed a little distracted, not as mentally focused as we could have been. We didn’t have a ton of energy and it was kind of like pulling teeth.
“We played better offensively in the second half and better on defense in the first half,” the coach added. “We didn’t play terrible, but we did not play real spirited. It was kind of a dogfight.”
Thacker pumped in a game-high 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting from the field overall and 6-for-10 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Three other Warriors scored in double figures. Howard finished with 23 points, Jake Albright scored 20 and led the way with 11 rebounds and four assists, and Forrest Smith chipped in with 14 points.
The Chukars got 23 points from Pogue, who also led Treasure Valley with 11 boards. Dajon Howe followed with 21 points and Kieron Hatchett and Dorran Wilson put up 15 points each.
The Warriors are now 16-9 overall, and with Wednesday’s victory that have punched a ticket to next month’s NWAC Championships in Everett. At 10-2 in league play WWCC is in second place in the East, two games ahead of Spokane (8-4, 17-8) and four games up on Treasure Valley (7-6, 9-14) and Big Bend (5-6, 15-7) with four league games remaining.
Walla Walla trails first-place North Idaho (11-0, 22-2) by two games and hosts the Cardinals Monday afternoon at 4 in a makeup game in the Dietrich Dome.
The Warriors are idle Saturday.