Walla Walla Community College took care of business here at the Dietrich Dome Wednesday in NWAC East Regions men’s basketball action.
Dalton Thompson buried a trey 40 seconds into the game and the Warriors took a 3-0 lead. Columbia Basin never threatened the rest of the way as the Warriors clinched a NWAC tournament playoff berth with a 93-55 win.
“That’s as focused as we’ve been all year,” Warriors coach Jeff Reinland said. “We took the three-ball away and played well on offense. Just a great overall effort. This punched our ticket for the tournament. We knew that was on the line and that we were going to North Idaho Saturday to play for first place. It was a good idea to win this game. Bottom line is that we came out and got it done. The guys played really well.”
Thompson followed his triple with another, Caulin Bakalarski scored six consecutive Warrior points, and following four consecutive free throws from Thompson the Warriors had this one in hand with a 19-2 lead with 12:26 left in the half.
The Hawks, behind an 11-2 run got within 35-21 with 2:50 left in the half, but the Warriors, highlighted by a Brandon Porter 3, closed the half on a 9-2 run and went to intermission in control with a 44-23 lead.
The Warriors, who defeated the Hawks 95-69 in their first meeting, put this one away in the first five minutes of the second half. With Bakalarski scoring 10 points, the Warriors opened the second 20 minutes with a 15-1 run to open a 59-24 lead with 15:25 left.
“We tried to keep our composure,” Bakalarski said of the Warriors continuing to increase the lead. “Everyone did their part. We’re starting to look like a team now. This was a big game for us.”
The Warriors went to the bench early and often, but kept the peddle to the metal. Zach Nerdin came off the bench to score 9 second-half Warrior points, with his bucket with 5:37 left producing the largest Warrior lead of the night at 85-46. 11 Warriors scored and the Warrior defense limited the Hawks to 22-of-72, 31 percent, shooting from the field.
“We played great defense the whole game,” Reinalnd commented. “CBC knocked us out of it last year. This year we’re in. In CBC’s defense, that was their third game in five days with all the weather make ups. I’m proud of our guys. It took a lot of pressure off us to get in the tourney.”
Bakalarski led the way with 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field, a game high 11 rebounds, and four assists.
“I’m feeling confident in my game right now,” Bakalarski added. “I came off a mid-season injury, and I’m just trying to get back.”
Thompson finished with 21 points, and Gabe Porter chipped in 12.
The Warriors improve to 11-3 in the East and travel to East leading North Idaho, 12-2, Saturday. A Warrior win would give WWCC a sweep of the season series and the East lead with one game left.
“We beat North Idaho last time,” Bakalarski said. “They are definitely looking for revenge. We are playing them in their home gym. It will be a battle. It’s a big game for us. We’re really focused.”
Article by Ken Morgan of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin
Photo by Greg Lehman of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin