Pacific Lutheran Upsets Division II Saint Martin's, 67-66

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PARKLAND - James Conti scored on a layup with 2.1 seconds left and Saint Martin's came up short on a last-second shot as Pacific Lutheran upset the NCAA Division II Saints, 67-66, in a non-conference men's basketball game played Tuesday night in raucous Olson Auditorium.

With his team trailing by a point, Conti took an inbounds pass and dribbled to the basket for the winning layup. The Saints, who dropped to 6-3 for the season, got the ball to their standout center Blake Poole, but his buzzer-beating 10-foot baseline jumper under defensive pressure came up short and the Lutes had the win.

The Lutes, who improved to 3-4 this season, ended a five-game losing streak to the Saints, whom they last defeated by a 76-72 score in the opening game of the 1995-96 season. That, incidentally, was the last time that these two programs met each other in Olson Auditorium.

Pacific Lutheran came to play, racing to a 6-0 lead on three field goals by Cameron Schilling. The hosts twice led by eight points, the last time at 17-9 on Curtis Trondsen's jumper with 11:22 remaining in the first half. PLU stayed in front for the remainder of the period and, after another Trondsen jumper with three seconds left, took a 38-34 lead into the halftime break.

Poole, who averages a double-double for the Saints, had nine rebounds in the opening half but was only 2-for-8 from the field. He didn't score his first point of the half until there was 2:30 showing on the clock.

The Saints tied the score for the first time at 44-44 on Roger O'Neill's three-point bomb with 14:39 left in the game. O'Neill scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the final half.

Saint Martin's finally took its first lead of the game with 12:08 to play on Brok Pendleton's short jumper, and the Saints eventually forged their biggest lead of the game at 64-58 on Ryan Votaw's three-point basket with 3:58 remaining.

That's when the Lutes turned the game around. They held the Saints scoreless for the next 3:51 and ran off seven unanswered points to take a 65-64 lead. Trondsen, who led the Lutes with 18 points off the bench, hit a three-point shot with 1:11 left to put an exclamation point on the run.

Trailing by a point, Saint Martin's pounded the ball down low to their 265-pound center and Poole hit a layup with seven seconds remaining to give his team a one-point lead, but that only set up Conti's heroics in the closing seconds, which in turn set off a wild celebration by a boisterous PLU crowd.

The Lutes, who lost to the Saints by 21 points last year in Lacey, shot 54 percent from the floor, including 8-for-11 from Trondsen. The 6-5 senior wing also shot 2-for-3 from three-point range. Andrew Earnest scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, and Schilling finished with 10 points, all of them in the opening 20 minutes. Victor Bull poulled down nine rebounds and added five assists to lead the Lutes in those categories.

Saint Martin's shot 41 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range, and out-rebounded by the Lutes by two, 34-32. Poole finished the game with 13 points and 18 rebounds, nine on each end. Pendleton came off the bench to score 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting for the visitors.

Pacific Lutheran returns to action on Dec. 18 when it faces Cal Lutheran at the SCIAC Classic in Pasadena, Calif.