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McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Brandon Harris recorded a career-high 20 points and Linfield battled back to earn a hard-fought Northwest Conference victory over Lewis & Clark 75-68 Friday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Andrew Batiuk contributed 17 points and three rebounds, and Zach Meikle knocked down seven points and grabbed five boards to pace the ‘Cats.
Ross Erickson (17), Quentin Sims (10) and Connor Freeberg (10) led the way for Lewis & Clark with each hitting double digits in the scoring column, as the Pioneers shot 7-19 from 3-point range.
The ‘Cats (1-4, 1-0 NWC) subbed early and often, with 10 different players seeing action in the first five minutes of the game. Neither team shot particularly well through the opening minutes, however the Pioneers were able to open up an 8-5 lead with a pair of threes.
After the ‘Cats regained a 9-8 lead, Serg Ovchinnikov sank three consecutive free throws to push Lewis & Clark back ahead. An ensuing layup and 3-point shot upped the spread to 16-9 in favor of the Pioneers, and prompted a Linfield timeout.
The Pios (3-3, 0-1 NWC) continued their dominance from the perimeter, as two more threes pushed their lead into double digits, 24-13, with seven minutes remaining in the first.
Linfield kept pace, however, as a three from Nick Cantonwine followed by a pair of Brandon Harris free throws cut the spread to 24-18. Harris’ hot hand carried a Wildcat rally with four unanswered points, and a Kevin Hurley layup brought the ‘Cats within two, 28-26.
Matt Kalbfleisch battled his way inside on several occasions, and contributed seven first-half points for Linfield.
A layup from Freeberg as time wound down gave the Pioneers a 35-31 lead heading into the break. Batiuk, who had been averaging 19.3 points per game this season, was held scoreless in the first half.
Three minutes into the second, Justin Leathers completed a three-point play and pushed the Pioneers’ lead back to ten at 43-33. Continuing the theme from the first half, the ‘Cats battled their way back into striking distance midway through the second, closing to within five points with 13 minutes remaining.
Linfield took its first lead of the second half on a three from Batiuk, but the Pioneers responded immediately with a pair of threes from Scott Pisapia and Sims.
With just under five minutes remaining, a three from Tim Logan knotted the score at 61-61. Less than a minute later, Cory Hendryx fought off three Pioneers for a rebound, and dished the ball out to Batiuk who put the ‘Cats up by three with a shot from downtown.
Linfield regained the lead with two minutes remaining and never looked back. The ‘Cats closed out the game with solid free-throw shooting and strong defense to edge the Pioneers,
‘CAT SCRATCH: With the victory, the ‘Cats avoided what would have been the worst start in program history…Harris’ previous career high was 12 points against Hope International…the sophomore has hit double figures three times this season…the win over the Pioneers was the Wildcats’ first over the team from Portland since Jan. 8, 2010, when Linfield knocked off Lewis & Clark 72-60.
NEXT UP: Linfield remains at home to take on Willamette University in more NWC play on Tuesday, Dec. 4. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.