Central Washington Earns Final GNAC Playoff Berth
Mark McLaughlin had 29 points and nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats past the Wolves.
Mark McLaughlin had 29 points and nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats past the Wolves.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. - Central Washington secured the final playoff berth in the GNAC Men's Basketball Championships with a 107-87 win over Western Oregon Thursday at Nicholson Pavilion.

The Wildcats (14-11, 8-9), who could earn as high as a fifth seed depending on what happens on the final day of the regular-season Saturday, blistered the nets for a 58.0 percentage (40 of 69), missing just 10 shots (22 of 32) in the second half.

CWU will join top-seed Western Washington (25-1, 16-1), No. 2 seed Seattle Pacific (22-3, 15-2), Alaska Anchorage (17-8, 10-7), Alaska Fairbanks (15-10, 10-7) and defending champion Montana State Billings (16-12, 9-8) in the six-team tournament which begins Thursday, March 7 at Marcus Pavilion on the Saint Martin's University campus in Lacey.

The winner earns the GNAC's automatic berth in the NCAA West Regional tournament, which begins Friday, March  15 at a site to be determined.

Mark McLaughlin scored 29 points and also had nine rebounds to key the victory.  McLaughlin made 10 of 14 shots, missing twice inside the arc (9-11) and twice outside the three-point line (1-3).

Central also got 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists from Jordan Coby, 19 points from Dom Williams and 13 from Brandon Magee.  Andy Avgi led the Wolves with 22 points, connecting on seven of 11 field goal attempts and all eight of his foul shots.  Kolton Nelson added 11 points and Devon Alexander had 10.

In the other three games on Thursday's slates, the home team rallied from substantial first-half deficits to earn victories.

Seattle Pacific overcame a 28-20 halftime deficit and trailed 33-22 just 2:45 into the second half before rallying for a 59-56 win at Brougham Pavilion to keep alive its mathematical hopes of sharing the conference regular-season title. 

The Falcons would need a victory over Alaska Fairbanks and a Simon Fraser win over Western Washington Saturday afternoon at Bellingham to grab a piece of the crown.

Jobi Wall scored all of his 13 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 6:41 left to play that gave SPU its first lead of the game.  After an exchange of points, SPU scored six straight points, the final four coming on layups by Wall.

The Falcons trailed 41-38 before Wall ignited an eight-point run on two free throws with 7:46 left to play. He followed with the go-ahead trey from the right baseline that just beat the shot clock.

The Seawolves twice drew within one point inside the final 25 seconds, but Wall secured the outcome on a pair of free throws with 4.9 seconds on the clock. The visitors attempted a potential game-tying 3-pointer, but Teancum Stafford’s contested jumper went wide of the basket.

David Downs scored 13 points to tie Wall for SPU team-high scoring honors. The Falcons shot 50 percent after halftime (9 of 18), including 5-for-7 accuracy behind the 3-point arc. Stafford was the lone UAA double-digit scorer with 20 points.

Montana State Billings and Northwest Nazarene also overcame first-half deficits to record victories.  The Yellowjackets rallied from a 40-31 halftime deficit to defeat Alaska Fairbanks 80-70 at Alterowitz Gymnasium.  The Crusaders (12-13, 6-11) came from 13 back at the break (35-22) to defeat Saint Martin's 65-61.

David Arnold and Omar McDade each had 17 points in MSUB's victory.  The Yellowjackets also got 12 points from Devon Wallace and 10 from Jarrell Crayton.  MSUB shot 56.7 percent (17 of 30) in the second half to pull out the win. 

Stefan Tica led the Nanooks with 16 points and Dominique Brinson had 14 points.  MSUB outrebounded UAF 32-24 as Arnold had seven and Sam Johnson had six to go along with his nine points.

Northwest Nazarene shot 64 percent in the second half (16-25) to rally past the Saints.  Kenny Jones led NNU with 20 points, converting on nine of 12 shots.  Kevin Rima had 12 points.

Will Bond and Evan Coulter each had 14 points and Roger O'Neill chipped in with 13 for the Saints.  Eric Taylor had 10.  SMU converted on all 12 of its foul shots in the contest including six by O'Neill, four by Taylor and two by freshman Lucas Shannon.