KENNEWICK – Yes, even a basketball team with just one loss gets the pregame jitters.
Maybe even more-so.
It was apparent in the first half of Community Colleges of Spokane’s 76-63 men’s victory over Everett at the NWAACC tournament on Thursday. The Sasquatch went into halftime down 38-35, but rallied to leave the Toyota Center victorious.
“Most of the year we’ve been a second-half team,” said freshman wing Matthew Dorr, who scored 24 points for the 28-1 Sasquatch. “There’s just kind of some pregame jitters just coming out here. There’s a lot of pressure on us right now, just with our record.”
Top-seeded Spokane struggled through the first half, spoiling an eight-point lead by committing five turnovers in eight possessions. Everett (20-9), a fourth seed, finished the period on a 12-3 run.
Most of those points came at the free-throw line. The Sasquatch had handed the Trojans bonus shots just 10 minutes through the first half.
The second half went smoother for CCS, when Dorr got hot.
“With us having six players (averaging) double figures, that kind of night-in-night-out lab experiment is, ‘Who is the guy tonight?’ ” coach Mike Burns said, referencing Dorr. “And once we figure that out, then we gotta try to get those people shots.”
It wasn’t just Dorr. Sophomore guard Jordan Gregg dominated on the floor, also scoring 24 points, and adding a career-high 19 rebounds.
It wasn’t just Gregg.
“We all came together and fought it out,” Gregg said. “We knew what we had to do in the second half.”
He said he thought the turning point was early in the second half when Eric Beal got a steal and passed to Dorr for a fast-break layup. After Everett missed a shot, Dorr sank a 3-pointer to give Spokane a 43-40 lead.
That was at the leading edge of a 24-9 Sasquatch run, when they opened a 12-point lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Everett threatened as Spokane committed more turnovers (24 total), but the Sasquatch held strong.
“It was just two teams that were playing really hard,” Burns said. “The way Everett shoots the 3, you can never relax. Because they can be down 20 with 6 (minutes) to go and still come back against you.
“I think it was just, again, the effort that they put forth on the defensive end of the floor. They made some plays and we, through that stretch, didn’t take care of the ball.”
Everett guard Jon Moe led all scorers with 26 points. Forward Stephen Waltman had a double-double, 12 points, 10 boards.
But Spokane won the rebounding 55-39, helped by Gregg and Robert Lippman, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Sasquatch move into the winner’s bracket to play today at 8 p.m. against the winner of Thursday night’s late game between Clackamas and South Puget Sound.
No. 1-ranked CCS continues to have a target on its back.
“I think we felt a little bit (of pressure) tonight,” Dorr said. “I think we have it out of our system now. But everyone just needs to slow down, just needs to get back to what we do and just do what we do well. Just play as a team and play defense.”
Spokane 58, Bellevue 47: The Sasquatch secured their opening-day win in the first half, opening an 11-point lead that turned out to be the final margin when each team scored 24 points in the second half.
Forward Ashlee Michelson led third-seeded Spokane (20-7) with 13 points and 10 rebounds, the first double-double of the women’s championship. Fellow starter Kellee Neal added 12 points.
Liz Beardslee supplemented her eight points with six rebounds and four assists.
The Bellevue Bulldogs (17-12) had three players in double figures – Marissa Bower (14), Briana Lewis (13) and Ashanii Jenkins (10) – but were held to 30.5 percent shooting.
The Sasquatch shot 44.6 percent from the field, although they hit just 2 of 13 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Sasquatch play a winners-bracket game at 6 p.m. today against Lower Columbia College (22-6), which won its opener against Linn-Benton 81-59.