TACOMA – Pacific Lutheran took a big step toward its first Northwest Conference men's basketball postseason tournament appearance since the 1997-98 season with a heart-stopping 78-74 victory over the Puget Sound Loggers on Tuesday night at Memorial Fieldhouse.
PLU won its sixth straight conference road game to improve its overall record to 13-8, including 8-5 in the conference. Currently in fourth place in the standings, the Lutes moved closer to postseason play, reserved for the top four finishers in the conference standings. Additionally, the Lutes moved three games ahead of the Loggers, now 5-8 in conference, with three games left. Pacific Lutheran has the tiebreaker edge over the Loggers, however, having swept the season series for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
Kyle MacTaggart scored 20 points, including 8-for-10 from the foul line, to lead the Lutes in scoring. Victor Bull added 12 points, while for the second straight game Curtis Trondsen scored all 13 of his points in the second half. The Loggers had five players in double figures, led by Kaleb Shelton with 18.
The Lutes scored nine unanswered points during a 4 ½-minute span of the first half, highlighted by a Kole Podowicz three-point play, to open up a 30-19 lead with 3:48 to go in the first half. From that point to the end of the period, however, the Lutes scored only two more points on Cameron Schilling's free throws with 27 second on the clock. That allowed the Loggers to cut their deficit to 32-28 at the half.
Pacific Lutheran scored the first six points of the second half, Bull sandwiching a pair of baskets around a MacTaggart layup. Puget Sound pulled to within four points, but that's when Trondsen and Tony Polis took over. Trondsen hit a jumper and a three, with Polis getting the assist, and then Polis picked Matt Geverola's pocket and converted a layup to give the Lutes a 51-40 advantage.
Trondsen hit another three-point basket, Polis followed shortly thereafter with another trey from the right wing, and then he fooled several Loggers players and got to the basket for an easy layup. That put the Lutes on top, 59-44, with 9:38 left.
After that, it got hairy for the Lutes.
Puget Sound went into a full court press, and riding seven straight points from Ryan Rogers and a pair of layups by Kaleb Shelton, cut its deficit under 10 points at 64-56.
The Lutes scored five straight points on a pair of McTaggart free throws and another three-pointer by Trondsen, but the Loggers came right back with a pair of threes sandwiched around a layup to make it a five-point game, 69-64, with 3:35 left.
After another Trondsen jumper put the Lutes back on top by seven, the Loggers got a pair of big three-pointers from Aaron Edwards to make it 73-72 with 1:59 remaining.
MacTaggart came up with his own huge play the next time down the court, converting a three-point play to give the Lutes a 76-72 lead with 1:29 left.
A Puget Sound basket made it a two-point game, and another PLU turnover gave the Loggers the ball. Shelton missed a pair of free throws, but the Loggers got the offensive rebound. After a timeout, and with 7.4 seconds left, they inbounded the ball under their own basket, but Shelton bobbled it away under pressure from Cameron Schilling.
With 2.4 seconds left, Schilling eventually put the game away, hitting a pair of free throws to give the Lutes the victory.
- PLU -