PARKLAND - It all comes down to the final day of the season for the Pacific Lutheran men's basketball team.
The Lutes hammered the visiting Pacific Boxers, 78-41, on Friday night in Olson Auditorium, setting up a potential playoff-deciding regular season finale against the George Fox Bruins. Tipoff for the game is slated for 8 p.m. in front of the Lute faithful.
As a result of Friday night's demolition of the Boxers, Pacific Lutheran (11-13 overall, 8-7 NWC) finds itself in a three-way tie with George Fox and Lewis & Clark for fourth place in the Northwest Conference standings.
One of those three teams will secure the final NWC postseason tournament bid, and for the Lutes the playoff puzzle is an easy one to solve. Pacific Lutheran must defeat George Fox and also hope for a Lewis & Clark loss at Pacific. If that happens, PLU earns the final postseason tournament berth and with it a contest next Thursday night at regular season champion Whitworth. Should the Lutes lose to George Fox they would be done, but even should they win they could still be left out of the playoffs if Lewis & Clark beats Pacific.
All of that stated, the Lutes certainly took care of their business this evening in front of 650 boisterous fans. A closely contested first half that saw PLU build a 29-21 lead turned into a route in the final 20 minutes as the hosts out-scored the Boxers, 49-20.
Drew Earnest, who opened the game with a trey, hit a long three-point shot about 35 seconds into the second half, and the rout was on. The lead went to 16 points, 41-25, on Cameron Reister's three with 15:46 to play. When Zachary Klein drained another three about nine minutes into the period, the Lutes had more than doubled up on the Boxers, taking a 54-26 advantage. Pacific Lutheran led by at least 30 points over the final seven minutes of the contest.
Senior point guard James Conti continued his audition for first team all-conference honors with yet another stellar performance on Friday, shooting 8-for-11 from the field to lead all scorers with 18 points. Not only that, he dished out seven assists, picked the Boxers' pockets for eight steals, all that while committing just one turnover in 31 minutes of action.
Junior post Cameron Schilling shot 3-for-6 from outside the arc on the way to 17 points, and Earnest was 4-for-8 from long range in scoring 16 points.
The Lutes shot 54 percent as a team (30-for-56) from the floor, including 44 percent (12-for-27) from three-point range.
Colin Wester led Pacific with 12 points, but he was the only visiting player to score in double figures. He also led his team with six rebounds. Pacific shot 37 percent (14-for-38) from the floor and just 18 percent (2-for-11) from three-point range. The Boxers also hurt themselves with 20 turnovers.
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