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February 18, 2012

Another Superlative Game for Lutes, But No Playoffs

PARKLAND - For the second consecutive night, Pacific Lutheran buried a Northwest Conference men's basketball opponent with dazzling basketball. Unfortunately, there will be no further opportunities for the Lutes this year, as they came up just short of a conference tournament playoff berth.

PLU (12-13 overall) ran George Fox (11-14, 8-8 NWC) off the court in a spectacular display of basketball in the opening half in rolled past the visiting Bruins, 86-61, in front of 950 approving fans in Olson Auditorium.

While the win improved Pacific Lutheran's conference record to 9-7, good for a fourth-place tie with Lewis & Clark, it is the Pioneers who will advance into NWC postseason play by virtue of the conference tiebreaker. Lewis & Clark split with second-place finisher Whitman, while the Lutes dropped both of their games to the Missionaries.

Despite not getting into the playoffs, there can be no mistaking that the Lutes played their best basketball, in what turned out to be an outstanding season, in the final week.

Last night, PLU out-scored the Pacific Boxers by 29 points in the second half in securing a convincing 78-41 win. Tonight, the first half was magic time for the Lutes as they raced to a 49-19 halftime lead against George Fox before settling for a 25-point win.

George Fox, which frittered away its playoff hopes with a pair of lopsided weekend losses, held its last lead at 3-2 just two minutes into the game. Cameron Schilling drilled a jumper to put the home team on top, 4-3, and the rout was definitely on.

Pacific Lutheran took its first double-digit lead at 22-11 on Arvid Isaksen's jumper nine minutes into the contest. Leading 29-19, the Lutes scored 20 unanswered points in the final seven minutes of the period to build that commanding 49-19 lead.

The Lutes shot 54 percent overall (19-for-35) in the opening period, including an amazing 73 percent (8-for-11) from three-point range, but even more spectacularly they did not commit a turnover while dishing out 14 assists. Zachary Klein and Arvid Isaksen came off the bench to score 11 and 10 points, respectively, and starter Cameron Reister was 3-for-5 from beyond the arc in adding 11 points to the total.

To its credit, George Fox played hard for the final 20 minutes but even then couldn't cut its deficit under 22 points, that coming on several occasions. Spencer Bolte scored all 10 of his points in the final half, while team leading scorer Sean Atkins had 11 of his 18 points in the final period.

PLU head coach Steve Dickerson pulled his two seniors, Klein and James Conti, to a nice ovation with just under three minutes remaining in the game. Conti, who ends his career No. 1 on the PLU men's basketball career steals list and No. 3 in assists, finished the game with 12 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, five steals and just one turnover in 31 minutes. Klein finished the game with 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds, including six on the offensive end.

Isaksen was 7-for-8 from the field on the way to a career-high 17 points, and he also corraled eight rebounds for PLU, which had a 36-30 margin in that statistic. Schilling had 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and Reister made it five Lutes players in double-digits, finishing with 11 points.

As a team the Lutes doled out 25 assists while shooting 32-for-61 (53 percent) from the field, including 11-for-21 (52 percent) from beyond the arc.

George Fox was 25-for-54 from the field (46 percent) overall.

- PLU -