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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Tigers win with Smith

Freshman scores 24 in victory over Pirates

Lewis and Clark's Naje' Smith dunks the ball in the first half of the Tigers’ victory over the visiting Rogers Pirates. (Colin Mulvany)
Steve Christilaw Correspondent

Naje’ Smith is growing into his role with the Lewis and Clark Tigers at just the right time.

Friday night, the 6-foot-5 freshman forward posted a career-high 24 points as the Tigers took down first-place Rogers, 59-46.

“Since about Christmas Naje’ has really started to feel comfortable and come into his own,” LC coach Jim Redmon said.

The Tigers (12-4, 10-4) took charge early and, after Isaiah Hernandez’ spinning layup a minute into the first quarter gave them a 4-2 lead, never trailed. By the time Smith tipped in an offensive rebound with 3:22 left, LC led by double digits.

“It’s always good to have the lead, but really, it was more important that we were playing defense, blocking out and doing our jobs,” Redmon said. “But yes, it was important that we forced them to play our game. If we’d let them play at their tempo, let them get us into an up-and-down game, it could have been a different outcome.”

Rogers (11-5, 10-4) did not go quietly, and stayed within striking distance thanks to timely 3-pointers from Asante Fields, who knocked down a pair, and K.J. Hassett, who drained three.

But it was LC that controlled the game.

Malik Hampton, who scored 18 points in the Pirates’ 74-71 win over LC at Rogers, had a body on him at all times and was limited to just three points. Smith and Dominick Oliveri traded off on that defensive assignment and 6-8 junior Vaughnden Handel came off the bench to draw the duty for much of the third quarter.

“It was important for us to match up with him,” Smith said. “He put up a lot of points on us the last time.”

Smith had eight points in the first half, but made his presence known in the second half. He soared high for a blocked shot just minutes into the half and added another to start the fourth quarter. He knocked down a step-back 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter and closed the game with six straight points over a 90-second span.

“My teammates had confidence in me and kept feeding me the ball,” Smith said.

The victory was the third straight for the Tigers after dropping back-to-back games to Shadle Park and Gonzaga Prep, and it gives LC momentum heading into another first-place showdown Tuesday at Central Valley.

Central Valley is in sole possession of first place at 11-3 while Rogers, University and LC are tied for second at 10-4.

Shadle Park 63, Ferris 59: The visiting Highlanders (10-6, 9-5) held off a late rally by the Saxons (5-11, 2-11). N’Keil Nelson led Shadle with 17 points, Sam Stratton had 16 and Kylan Kelley added 10. Mike Ervin led Ferris with 21 and Jace Van Lierop had 17. The Saxons are on the brink of elimination for a postseason berth. One more Ferris loss or a Mead win will eliminate the Saxons.

Gonzaga Prep 52, North Central 49: Logan Adams’ two free throws with one second to go allowed the Bullpups (10-6, 9-5) to edge past the visiting Indians (2-14, 1-13). Austen Scally made a basket with 10 seconds left to get NC to 50-49. Adams led G-Prep with 16 points, while Scally led NC with 16.

Mead 75, Mt. Spokane 54: A 19-4 outburst in the second quarter opened things up for the visiting Panthers (9-7, 7-7). Will McPhee led four Panthers in double figures with 20. Sam Stiles led the Wildcats (1-14, 1-12) with 20.