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February 12, 2011

Lutes Assured of Playoff Spot Despite Loss at L&C

PORTLAND, Ore. - Pacific Lutheran entered Saturday night's Northwest Conference men's basketball game against host Lewis & Clark knowing it had clinched a NWC postseason tournament bid, its first since the 1997-98 season. The task at hand, then, was to beat the Pioneers and make a move toward a higher tournament seed.

Unfortunately for the Lutes, that didn't happen as the Pioneers pulled away from a 59-59 tie, out-scoring the Lutes 19-8 over the final six minutes in garnering a 78-67 victory.

With the win, the Pioneers improved their overall record to 17-6 and their NWC mark to 10-4, good for a second-place tie with Whitman. The loss dropped the Lutes to 13-9 overall and to 8-6 in the conference.

More importantly for both teams, Saturday's win gave the Pioneers a season sweep of the Lutes, assuring them of the tiebreaker advantage, and relegating the Lutes to the fourth seed in the NWC postseason tournament. With two regular season home games still to be played next weekend, the Lutes now know that they will make their first NWC postseason appearance since the 1997-98 season against the Whitworth Pirates, currently unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Division III basketball, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, in Spokane.

The Lutes and the Pioneers were in a tight game until the final minutes. Kyle MacTaggart hit a layup with 5:52 remaining to tie the score at 59-59, but the Pioneers responded by scoring on their next eight possessions. Kelly Edwards hit a jumper and Marcus Wells nailed a three-pointer to put the hosts on top by five points, and over the course of the next four minutes L&C built a 73-63 lead, capped by another Wells trey.

Cameron Schilling led PLU with 17 points, followed by Andrew Earnest with 15 and Curtis Trondsen with 12. Both Earnest and Trondsen were 2-for-3 from beyond the three-point line. James Conti had five assists to lead the Lutes in that category. PLU shot an impressive 56 percent (29-for-52) from the floor, including 50 percent (4-for-8) from three-point range.

Edwards had a huge game for the Pioneers, scoring 24 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, both game highs. Joining the 6-4 all-conference player in double figures were Donato Perconti with 15, PJ Taylor with 13, and Kyle Meeuwsen and Wells with 11 apiece. The Pioneers shot 54 percent (29-for-54) from the field and 43 percent (12-for-28) from beyond the arc. They also enjoyed a 31-23 rebound advantage.

- PLU -