MCMINNVILLE, Ore. - Senior Zach Anderson scored 26 points for Linfield in the Wildcats’ season-ending game, but the Wildcats could not overcome a trio of double-digit scorers from Puget Sound, which pocketed an 80-67 Northwest Conference victory Saturday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
UPS’s Rex Holmes had 23 points, Kaleb Shelton totaled 14 and Riggs Yarbro added 12 for the NWC tournament-bound Loggers (19-6, 11-5 NWC). The win earned the Loggers the right to host Whitman in the opening round of the NWC playoff tournament on Thursday. It also gave UPS's sixth-year coach Justin Lunt his 100th career coaching victory.
The ‘Cats (5-20, 3-13 NWC) were hampered by spotty free throw shooting and 15 turnovers.
On senior night, Linfield stars Anderson and David Lee were honored before the game in a ceremony highlighting their prominent careers as Wildcats. Both players were joined by their families at midcourt, where their accomplishments were recognized.
For the game, the Wildcats shot 40 percent from the field and a less-than-stellar 60 percent from the free throw line. Puget Sound outrebounded Linfield 41-32, including a game-high eight by bigman Anthony Gittens. Andrew Batiuk led the way on the backboards for Linfield with seven caroms.
Both teams started slow, with neither team gaining clear advantage in the opening minutes. UPS began to pull away midway through the first, jumping to a 20-11 lead.
Wildcats guard Cory Hendryx (Sr., Scappoose, Ore.) scored five points early on, helping Linfield remain close at the start.
Linfield clawed its way back into the game, cutting the deficit to 28-25 nearing the break. The ‘Cats then finished the half strong, tying the score at 35 with less than a minute remaining.
The Loggers were led by Holmes’ 13 first-half points. Puget Sound shot 45 percent from the field in the opening stanza and a crisp 78 percent from the free throw line.
The first half featured four lead changes plus four ties. Linfield shot only 38 percent from the field and a dismal 64 percent from the foul line.
Characteristic of the first half, the teams traded buckets early in the second with Linfield relentlessly chipping away at the Loggers’ early lead. Puget Sound’s advantage grew to 55-46, after a turnover and a shot clock violation cost the ‘Cats a chance to reduce the spread.
The two teams’ shooting accuracy ran ice cold midway through the second half. A combination of stellar defense by Puget Sound and erratic shooting by the ‘Cats helped the Loggers maintain command of the game.
After a pair of free throws from Anderson made it 54-51, Linfield had a chance to strike back with seven minutes remaining. But the ‘Cats could not keep Puget Sound off the foul line. The Loggers made 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch, resulting in a 10-point spread with three minutes left in regulation.
Batiuk had 15 points, though suffered through a 4-for-12 shooting night. The freshman forward put a cap on his debut season by also contributing three assists, two steals and a pair of blocks. Lee finished with 11 points, five rebounds and two steals in his final game.
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