McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Pacific withstood a late rally, dealing the hard-luck Linfield Wildcats another Northwest Conference defeat Saturday night inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Daniel Zitani scored a game-high 16 points and snared a game-high eight rebounds, leading the Boxers (11-6, 4-4 NWC) to a gritty 64-56 road triumph over their longtime conference rivals. After a lackluster first-half shooting in which they shot under 30 percent, the Wildcats rebounded after the intermission to connect at a 51 percent clip, coming all the way back from 16 points down to draw within three with just over a minute remaining.
Tanner Brill (Fr., Longview, Wash.) nailed a 3-pointer with 1:13 to play, pulling the ‘Cats to within a single basket of tying the game, 59-56. But a trio of 3-point attempts by Ryan Cali (Jr., San Jose, Calif.), Adam Myren (Jr., Carmichael, Calif.) and Dequam Walls in the final minute all went unanswered and Zitani and Eric Moore each added two free throws to complete the wire-to-wire victory for the visiting Boxers.
Chris Dirks (Jr., Hood River, Ore.) scored a team-best 12 points and pulled in six rebounds before fouling out with three minutes remaining. Dirks had just converted a 3-pointer that brought Linfield back to within seven points at 56-49. And later with 44 seconds left, Mason Rodby (Fr., Redmond, Ore.), Linfield's only other true post, was whistled for his fifth foul and headed to the bench for good. Rodby was also a factor offensively, scoring 11 points in a reserve role.
Aided by eight offensive rebounds, Pacific forged a 36-23 advantage at the intermission. Linfield managed just 10 points over the game's first 14 minutes as Pacific built a 21-10 cushion following a layup by Mitch Wettig, who finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Zitani and Jordan Batey both dropped in eight points during the opening half and the Boxers connected on 41 percent of their shots from floor (13-of-31) to the Wildcats' 28 percent (6-of-21). Pacific also forced nine turnovers in the half as Linfield's offense struggled to get into the flow. Brill led the ‘Cats with six first-half points, sinking both of his 3-point shots.
Cali, who struggled through a 1-for-9 shooting night, passed out five assists while grabbing five rebounds.
Linfield (2-15, 0-8 NWC) completed the first half of the NWC schedule still searching for its first conference win. As was in evidence Saturday, the Wildcats refuse to concede defeat, outscoring Pacific 33-28 in the second half to nearly pull the game from the fire.
COMING UP: Linfield is home again Tuesday night to face Yamhill County rival George Fox in an 8 o'clock contest. Live video webcast coverage begins at approximately 7:50.
12 points, 6 rebounds
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