Taken To The Matt: Poquette Leads Wildcats To Semis
Matt Poquette finished shooting 13 of 19 from the field as Central Washington shot 50.8% from the field for the game.
Matt Poquette finished shooting 13 of 19 from the field as Central Washington shot 50.8% from the field for the game.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Central Washington continues to be hot at the right time.

The No. 4 seeded Wildcats went on a late first-half run and never looked back Thursday, rolling to an 80-66 victory over No. 5 seeded Western Oregon in the quarterfinals of the GNAC Men’s Basketball Championships at Carver Gym.

Senior Matt Poquette played all 40 minutes and led all scorers with 28 points on 13 of 19 from the field to go with nine rebounds to lead the Wildcats to their fifth consecutive win. Junior Samaad Hector finished with 18 points, most of which came in the second half, while senior Isaiah Banks contributed 17 points on 5 of 6 from the field and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.

Senior Cameron Cranston led Western Oregon with 15 points while senior John Morrill-Keeler and junior Jahville Collins finished with 12 points apiece.

With the victory, Central Washington (15-14) awaits a rematch with No. 1 seed Saint Martin’s in the semifinals on Friday at 2:15 p.m. The Wildcats stunned the Saints 77-75 in Lacey last Thursday. Western Oregon’s season ends with a 12-14 record.

After a slow start offensively for both teams, the Wildcats took the first sizeable lead of the game when Camron McNeil’s three-pointer put CWU up 14-9 seven minutes in. Western Oregon tied it back up four minutes later and took what proved to be their largest lead of the stanza, 17-14, on Cranston’s three-pointer with 9:36 to go.

Central Washington tied it on its next possession and would not trail again in the half, but the Wildcats did not pull away until later in the period. The lead was 28-26 when Banks’ three-pointer with four minutes left started an 11-4 run that closed out the half and ended on Morrill-Keeler’s lay-in with 36 seconds left to account for the 39-30 halftime lead.

The Wildcats finished the first half shooting 50% from both the field and from three-point range and limited to Wolves to just 34.5% from the field.

Central Washington charged out of the locker room hot to open the second half, opening with a 12-4 run over the first four minutes. Hector had six points in the run, which ended on a Poquette lay-in that gave CWU a 51-34 lead at the 16-minute mark.

While Western Oregon continued to push, they could never match Central Washington’s output. The Wildcats eventually opened up a 17-point lead, 68-51, on Banks’ free throw with 5:48 left and took their largest lead of 21 points, 74-53, on another Banks jump with 3:50 left.