McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Elliot Babcock-Krenk gave Willamette the lead with just nine seconds remaining, and the Bearcats held on for a stunning 83-80 Northwest Conference victory over Linfield Tuesday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Despite a career-high 23 points from Brandon Harris, the ‘Cats could not hold on to a second half lead, as the Bearcats fought valiantly to edge their way back into the game. Andrew Batiuk contributed 19 points and led the way on the glass with seven rebounds, while Zach Meikle scored nine points and grabbed six boards.
Terrell Malley (23), Sean Dart (18) and Avery Manu (12) paced Willamette. As a team, the Bearcats shot 48.4% from the field and 6-for-16 from behind the arc.
The Bearcats (3-4, 1-0 NWC) wasted no time jumping in front, with back-to-back threes from Manu and Malley giving Willamette a 6-0 lead with just over a minute gone in the first. The ‘Cats responded, however, as a 3-pointer from Harris followed by a layup from Kevin Hurley (Soph., Portland, Ore.) pushed the score to 6-5.
Harris continued to penetrate and get to the rim, and two layups from the sophomore guard gave him seven points in the first three minutes, plus Linfield’s first lead of the game, 9-8. A three from Meikle capped off a 7-0 Wildcat run as Linfield showed it would not hestiate to shoot from long range.
Linfield (1-5, 1-1 NWC) employed a familiar run-and-gun style offense, utilizing several court-length in bounds passes to catch Willamette’s defense off guard. Yet Willamette kept pace with Linfield into the closing minutes of the first, matching the Wildcats bucket-for-bucket and refusing to allow a significant lead.
With time winding down in the first, Dart threw up a shot from downtown that beat the shot clock buzzer and went in to knot the score at 40 at the half.
Both teams were liberal in terms of shots in the first, as the Bearcats (33) fired at the rim twice more than the Wildcats (31). Willamette sunk five shots from behind the arc and outrebounded Linfield 22-14.
Harris led all scorers with 15 in the first, and Malley, an honorable mention all-NWC pick in 2011-12, led the Bearcats with 14.
The intense battle from the first half carried over to the second, as the teams took turns trading buckets early on. Linfield took control moving through the middle part of the second and slowly pushed its lead up to 66-55 with just over ten minutes remaining.
With 3:44 remaining, a layup from Dart cut the score to 75-71, the closest the Bearcats had been since eight minutes into the period.
With Malley’s hand in his face, Mitch Cokley sunk a 3-pointer from the corner that extended the spread back to seven in favor of the Wildcats. Malley responded, however, and hit a three of his own with under two minutes left to narrow the gap to 78-76. An ensuing layup from the senior guard knotted the score at 78-all with one minute to play.
With nine seconds left, Babcock-Krenk knocked down a mid-range jumper to give Willamette an 82-80 lead, and after a turnover on the Wildcats’ next possession, Trevor Bos sealed the victory with a free throw.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Harris has scored in double digits for three straight games…the largest lead by either team was 11, held by the Wildcats in the second half...Linfield has featured three different leading scorers in games this season: Batiuk (3), Harris (2), and Meikle (1).
AHEAD: The ‘Cats take on Concordia Friday in McMinnville. The non-conference matchup is set to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. in Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Sets new career high for third straight game
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