YAKIMA — Walla Walla Community College could only watch as Yakima Valley converted 26-of-30 shots (86.7 percent) from the free-throw line, and used several charity points to erase the Warriors’ double-digit lead midway through the second half, and ended up handing them an 83-81 loss in a Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball East Division matchup here on Wednesday.
The Warriors (19-6 overall, 9-3 in the division) finished with better shooting from the field — they made 31-of-69 (44.9 percent), while the Yaks were 25-of-59 (42.4 percent) — and the game’s top scorer in Landon Radliff, who hit seven 3-pointers on his way to 30 points, but as a team, WWCC went to the line only nine times and made six of them.
“No question about it,” Warriors coach Jeff Reinland said of free throws turning the game around. “And we couldn’t get to the free throw line. Very discouraging. We outplayed them the whole game. It was our game. We should have won. Very frustrating for the kids and for me. I don’t have much to say. That’s how it was called.”
Despite the loss, Walla Walla finished the night still tied with North Idaho atop the East standings, with the Cardinals having lost their game against Big Bend.
WWCC next plays at eighth-place Blue Mountain on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
“We’ve got to take care of our business, and move on to our next one,” Reinland said.
Walla Walla had a 48-37 lead as the first half came to a close, when Damen Thacker fouled Yakima’s Quentin Raynor on his long 3-point heave at the buzzer. Raynor made all three, and in the end, every point would prove important.
A Radliff 3-pointer with 11:33 left in the second half made it a 66-56 game, but soon, the Warriors’ lead began to dwindle. Raynor answered with a 3 on his own, and then made a free-throw before a Jordan Blodgett 3 pulled the Yaks to within a single possession with 10 minutes still remaining.
“We made too many mistakes, and let their shooters get free for some big 3’s,” Reinland said. “We let (Raynor) get away, and he hit a big three. And then Blodgett hit a three. Everything went bad for us at the end.”
The rest of the way, Yakima would convert 11 of 12 free throws. A minute after Raynor connected on a pair with 6:25 on the clock, a Blodgett layup gave Yakima its first lead of the game at 71-70.
Walla Walla refused to roll over, however, and a Radliff free throw tied things up at 76-76 with 2:44 to go.
But Yakima’s Try Delp answered with two points at the line, and the Yaks would stay in front to the end.
“They got to the free-throw line every time down the court, and we couldn’t stop them,” Reinland said. “We didn’t play poorly, but we didn’t great great either. We made too many mistakes down the stretch.”
Yaks 83, Warriors 81
WALLA WALLA (81) — Radliff 30, Porter 23, Albright 13, Watson 7, Thacker 3, Tiller 3, Engstrom 2.
YAKIMA VALLEY (83) — Raynor 26, Lindgren 16, Delp 13, Davis 11, Britten 10, Blodgett 7.
Halftime — Walla Walla, 48-40. 3-point goals — Walla Walla 13, Yakima 7. Total fouls — Walla Walla 20, Yakima 14. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — Walla Walla (Thacker). Rebounds — Walla Walla 28, Yakima 39. Turnovers — Walla Walla 8, Yakima 12. Assists — Walla Walla 8, Yakima 7.