EVERETT – Levi Taylor capped off a tournament MVP performance with 21 points, but it was balance that brought Community Colleges of Spokane the Northwest Athletic Conference basketball championship.
Five other players scored in double figures to pace the Sasquatch to a 91-84 victory over Whatcom in the title game of the conference tournament Sunday night.
The title was the second in the NWAC for the Sasquatch (29-5), who also won in 2000 and were runner-up in 2008. Spokane also won the WSJCAC title in 1967.
“I’m so happy, I’m so proud, I can’t even explain it,” said Taylor, a former Lewis and Clark standout. “I’m so happy I was able to come through for our coaches and our team. I knew we had it. We worked all year long for this.”
Garrett Hull scored 14 points, AJ Knudsen 13, Dalton Patchen 12, and Jacob Devries and Race Martin each added 10 for Spokane, which upended top-ranked East Region rival Big Bend in the semifinals. CCS was the East’s No. 2 seed.
Leif Anderson had 18 points and Logan Schilder added 16 for Whatcom (23-10), which entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed in the North Region.
The Sasquatch were 13 of 22 from beyond the arc en route to a 54-39 halftime lead, then turned back several runs in the second half.
Connor Kelley scored on a drive to pull Whatcom within 58-49, but Spokane responded with a 10-point run, capped by Knudsen’s jumper from the top of the key with 10:43 remaining to make it 68-49.
The Orcas put together a 12-2 spurt, cutting the lead to 74-65 on two free throws by Kelly with 6:31 left.
Two free throws by Hull gave Spokane an 83-74 lead with 1:53 left, but Whatcom pulled within 83-77 with 1:07 remaining.
The Orcas were forced to foul in the final minute and the Sasquatch hit 8 of 12 free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.
The title completed a four-game tournament run by the Sasquatch, who lost their final two regular-season games.
“We used that as motivation,” Spokane coach Jeremy Groth said. “That got a fire burning in our belly. Obviously looking back on it, we’ll take those two losses now, knowing what the end result is. That’s a credit to our guys.”
The Sasquatch, who never trailed, hit six 3-pointers early to open a 23-13 lead with 13:54 left in the first half.
Casey Leek’s driving layup capped a seven-point run that pulled the Orcas within 34-32, but Spokane went back to the perimeter for six 3-pointers and an 18-1 run to push the lead to 52-33 with 1:30 left in the half.
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