MISSOULA – Sometimes those old sports sayings are really true.
Cliff Colimon and Laron Griffin really did leave it all on the floor here Tuesday night, which didn’t leave much energy for the postgame press conference.
“I knew it was going to be a war, and I came into it with that mentality,” was about all senior forward Laron Griffin could say after the Eagles’ season – and his EWU career - ended with a 74-66 loss to Montana in the Big Sky Conference semifinals.
The winners tend to do most of the postgame talking, but the Grizzlies came away impressed with Eastern even as they looked ahead to tonight’s title game against Weber State.
“They came in confident like I knew they would,” Montana coach Wayne Tinkle said, “and caused us some frustration.”
Griffin finished his career with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, his third straight double-double. Another senior, forward Cliff Ederaine, put up 16 and sparked the Eagles to a lead that grew to as much as 11 late in the first half.
“Ederaine was a monster tonight, playing to keep his season going, and he really stepped it up,” said Tinkle, whose inside players often struggled to cope with Ederaine’s drives to the basket.
And then there was Cliff Colimon – playing his final game like it was just that, with a game-high 27 points, most of them earned with drives in traffic or pull-up jumpers against players such as Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Will Cherry.
Colimon was on the court for all 40 minutes, hitting 10 of 20 from the field and perhaps even getting some notice from the 18 NBA scouts who were evaluating Cherry and Weber State guard Damian Lillard.
“Colimon’s a terrific player,” Cherry said. “He’s one of the great scorers in our league. He’s tough. He can pull it up, he’s stepping back and he’s hitting threes. He made it tough on us tonight.
“It didn’t matter if I had a hand in his face or not, he was hitting them. Our coaches said if he’s going to hit them all night, we’ll live with it.”
But with Eastern in possession of a one-point lead and the ball with 2:07 to play, it was Cherry who blocked a Colimon layin, then scored at the other end to give the Grizzlies the lead for good.
After the game, Colimon said he thrives on that kind of rivalry.
“I felt really confident going into the game,” said Colimon, who joined Cherry and Lillard on the All-Big Sky first team. “But one of our assistant coaches (Shantay Legans) got me really fired up,” reminding Colimon that Cherry was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“Congrats to him (Cherry) for that, but it really got me fired up,” who also prides himself on his defense.
That left it to coach Jim Hayford to put the game in perspective. “I can’t imagine an Eastern fan who watched it or was here, who wouldn’t be tremendously proud of this team.”