Lewis & Clark catches fire from three-point range in the second half to secure a 72-66 come-from-behind victory

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Pacific guard Cameron Hayes gets off a jump shot over Lewis & Clark's Connor Freeberg during a Northwest Conference game on Saturday.That was a tough one.

Facing Lewis & Clark, a squad it is battling for a Northwest Conference playoff spot, the Pacific men’s basketball team played free and easy in the first half on Saturday, building up a nine-point advantage on a couple of occasions.

But the game came unraveled in the second half, when the Pioneers found their shooting touch and got red-hot from distance, sinking six 3-pointers en route to a 72-66 comeback victory.

The defeat halted a three-game win streak for Pacific, which played three games last week. The Boxers (14-9, 7-7) came up with a big 73-69 win against George Fox last Tuesday before topping Pacific Lutheran 54-51 on the road on Friday.

For the second time this season, though, Pacific could not figure out Lewis & Clark (15-8, 8-5). The Pioneers showed a deft finishing touch, particularly in the second half, going 26-for-40 on field goals, including 9-for-19 on triples for the contest.

“Basketball’s a hard game when you don’t put the ball in the basket,” Pacific head coach Tim Cleary said. “We’re 3-for-19 from the 3-point line, just couldn’t make open shots. We had some breakdowns defensively against a good offensive team.

“Unfortunately, when you put those two things together, that’s going to be the result.”

After giving up the lead about a third of the way into the second half, the Boxers rallied to within two points twice, but they could never get over the hump, despite a game-high 30 points from Daniel Zitani.

That came after it appeared as though Pacific might put the game away early. After Cameron Hayes’ layup evened the score at 16-all midway through the first half, Zitani fueled a 12-3 Boxers run with eight consecutive points, and Budweiser Hawkins capped it with a thunderous one-handed dunk.

Though 24-plus minutes still remained, that dunk would prove to be the game’s high point for the home team. Undeterred, Lewis & Clark answered back, cutting its deficit to 28-26 on a Jason Luhnow 3-pointer before Jordan Batey knocked down a layup to put Pacific up 30-26 at the break.

The momentum continued to swing the Pioneers’ way in the second stanza. They took the lead for good on a bucket by Cannen Roberson six minutes in. Over the next minute-plus, Connor Freeberg’s layup and another triple by Luhnow spelled trouble for the Boxers, who then trailed 43-36.

Eric Moore gave the home team some life with a 3-pointer to cut the margin to 48-46 with 9:14 to play. Two free throws from Zitani a couple of minutes later made it 54-52, but the Boxers could get no closer.

“We played good basketball,” Zitani noted. “We just couldn’t pull it out.”

Along with Zitani, Batey hit double figures for the Boxers with 12 points, Hawkins and Moore added seven points apiece, and Mitch Wettig chipped in two points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

In an impressive demonstration of depth for the visitors, Serg Ovchinnikov (14 points), Roberson (13), Freeberg (12) and Randall Jackson (10) all hit double digits.

The Boxers face two must-win games to keep their playoff hopes alive. On Friday they welcome Linfield for Senior Night, when Zitani, Moore, Hayes, Hawkins and Connor Hurley will be recognized. Pacific closes out the regular season Saturday at Puget Sound — one of the teams it is trying to catch for a playoff spot — in Tacoma, Wash.

“Still a lot of basketball to be played for everybody,” Batey noted. “We still have a good outlook, and we can still make it. We just gotta stay focused and come back and hit the court and work hard.”

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