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McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Continuing a season-long theme of down-to-the-wire finishes, a last-second shot from Rex Holmes rattled out and Linfield downed the University of Puget Sound 70-65 in a dramatic Northwest Conference matchup Friday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Andrew Batiuk led all scorers with 25 points and also brought down 12 rebounds for the ‘Cats. Brandon Harris joined Batiuk amongst the Wildcats’ top scorers as the guard contributed 16 points. Cody Jurgens (nine) and Nick Cantonwine (10) both tied career highs in scoring.
Rex Holmes (17) and Derek Jobe (15) led the way in scoring for the Loggers, and Ryan Rogers had a team-high eight rebounds. Riggs Yarbo, who currently tops the Loggers in scoring with a dozen points per game, posted 14 points for UPS.
With the win, the Wildcats improved to 3-11 on the season and 1-3 in NWC play. The Loggers dropped to 6-8 and 1-4 in the NWC.
After falling behind 2-0, the Loggers stormed to a 9-0 run that gave them a healthy lead early on. Kevin Hurley completed a three-point play that got the ‘Cats back into the game, as the Loggers held a 9-7 advantage five minutes into the game.
The ‘Cats regained the lead midway through the first as Forrest Paxton penetrated into the key and finished a layup. The teams continued to trade buckets, and neither could establish control of the game early on.
Cantonwine drilled a three with seven minutes remaining that stretched Linfield’s lead out to 24-19, its largest of the game. Linfield continued the run and after a pair of free throws from Batiuk the ‘Cats were up 30-23.
Harris knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner that gave Linfield a 10-point advantage just three minutes from the break. Linfield held on to its lead, and the teams headed into halftime with the score at 35-27.
Jobe led all scorers in the first with 10 points and Rogers grabbed five boards for the Loggers. Linfield shot an impressive 50 percent from the field in the first, while the Loggers sat at 38.7 percent in the same category.
The Loggers chopped the Wildcats’ lead in half within the first two minutes of the second, as a pair of free throws from Gabe Borboa made the score 35-32. Moments later the Loggers tied the score at 36-all as Holmes sunk a pair of free throws.
Momentum swung back-and-forth through the middle part of the second, and tempers began to flare as intensity picked up on the court. A string of eight straight points put control back into the Wildcats’ hands with 13 minutes remaining.
With every made basket one – and sometimes both – of the benches erupted as the Wildcats remained within striking distance of the Loggers down the stretch.
With 4:40 remaining, Holmes drained a three to push the score to 63-55. Harris responded, however, sinking a three of his own from the top of the key in the following possession. An ensuing layup from Cantonwine brought the ‘Cats within three, 63-60.
Linfield pulled within a single point on multiple occasions, and with 1:30 remaining a bad pass from the Loggers gave Linfield possession with a chance to take the lead. A slick pass from Batiuk found Harris as he streaked down the lane, and the guard finished a layup to put the ‘Cats up, 66-65.
Harris didn’t stop there, as he blocked a shot on the Loggers’ next drive down the court, and gave Linfield the ball back with 55 ticks left on the clock. A pair of last-second free throws from Batiuk ensured the ‘Cats would hold on for the victory.
‘CAT SCRATCH: The series has been dead even over the past three seasons, with the ‘Cats and Loggers winning three games each in that time span…a 10-game winning streak by UPS in the mid-2000s has the Loggers on top of the Wildcats 15-5 in the series over the past decade…the closest matchup in that time span was a 64-61 Wildcats victory over the Loggers on Jan. 15, 2011 in McMinnville.
AHEAD: The ‘Cats resume NWC Saturday in Forest Grove against Pacific University. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. and will follow the women’s matchup featuring the same two schools.