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Second Half Surge Sends Winning Wolves To Title Tilt
Western Oregon's Kaleb Warner exploded for 25 points as Western Oregon came back for a big 70-53 semifinal victory.
Western Oregon's Kaleb Warner exploded for 25 points as Western Oregon came back for a big 70-53 semifinal victory.

Friday, March 8, 2019

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – It was a tale of two halves at Carver Gymnasium between top-seeded Saint Martin's and No. 4 Western Oregon in Friday's second men's semifinal.

But by the end of the night it was all Wolves, who advanced to their fourth consecutive GNAC Championships title game with a 70-53 victory. The team used a 22-3 run in the contest's final nine minutes to eliminate and stun the Saints. The comeback couldn't have happened without the help of senior Kaleb Warner, who finished the night leading all scorers with 25 points. 

The win marked WOU's first of the season against the opponent from Lacey after dropping two close meetings during the regular season. The defeat dropped SMU to 24-5 on the season, while the tournament's No. 4 seed advances to face No. 2 Seattle Pacific in Saturday's title tilt. 

Warner (25 points, six rebounds) and sophomore Darius Lubom (14 points, nine assists) led Western Oregon in the win. Warner lit it up from three-point range, shooting six of seven from beyond the arc. Lubom was efficient as well, just narrowly missing a double-double. As a team, it shot 52 percent from the field.

On the other side, senior EJ Boyce led his team with 14 points on the night. 

This one was all Saint Martin's early as the Wolves struggled on the offensive end of the floor. The Saints jumped out to an early 7-0 lead and would hold that advantage for the duration of the half, ultimately taking a 33-23 edge into the locker rooms. 

It seemed as if they would run away with the semifinal matchup when those trends continued early in the second stanza, but WOU was able to flip a switch with about nine minutes remaining. The GNAC Championships regulars found their form, getting stop after stop while stringing together buckets on the other end.

A layup by Buster Souza pulled Western Oregon even at 50-50 with 8:55 remaining, and another driving score from Warner put his team on top for good less than a minute later. Warner and company continued to build on that lead until the final horn, ultimately cruising to the 70-53 win.

The victory punched the Wolves ticket to Saturday's tournament championship game, which will begin at 7:35 p.m. For those not in attendance in Bellingham, the game will be streamed live on WatchESPN.com.

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