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Eastern Washington University Basketball

Eastern Washington men outlast Montana State in OT; Jamie Loera lifts EWU women to Big Sky title

Eastern Washington’s Ellis Magnuson drives against Montana State’s Brian Goracke on Saturday at Reese Court in Cheney. Magnuson, EWU’s all-time leader in games played, was honored for Senior Night pregame.  (Courtesy of EWU Athletics)
By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

There was one still moment in overtime when David Riley dared to take in the madness of the game playing out at Reese Court in front of him.

The moment came when junior Ethan Price, desperate to get the basketball out of his hands with the shot clock winding down, heaved up a shot and drew a foul call on Montana State junior Brian Goracke.

Price hit all three free throws, pushing Eastern Washington past 100 points and extending its lead to a game-high seven points with 34.6 seconds remaining.

“The one moment I did breathe was when we went up seven,” Riley said, referring to those free throws. “And somehow they cut it to three (points) within 10 seconds.”

The Eagles (20-10, 14-3 Big Sky) held on after that, thanks to the free-throw shooting of its two seniors, Ellis Magnuson and Jake Kyman, who each hit a pair to close out a 108-104 overtime victory Saturday afternoon over the Bobcats (13-17, 8-9).

But for a game with significance in the standings that did not equal its significance in the arena, there were precious few pauses in the action that were not pregnant with intensity.

“It got chippy sometimes,” said the senior Kyman, who finished with 18 points. “We have to stay composed as a team when those things happen. A lot of guys stepped up tonight. It was a big win.”

Before the game, Eastern had secured its second Big Sky championship in as many seasons, so the game – and Monday’s at Sacramento State – served as a tuneup for the Big Sky Tournament that begins next weekend in Boise.

But after honoring their seniors before the game and then the 2003-2004 Eastern Washington team at halftime, the Eagles played their first overtime contest in two years and had to close it out while leading scorer Cedric Coward dealt with foul trouble.

The Bobcats – who are jockeying for position in the middle of the Big Sky standings – weren’t about to hand the Eagles a victory.

“We kind of knew they were going to try to muck it up. That’s what they did at their place,” Magnuson said, referring to MSU’s 70-60 win over the Eagles in Bozeman earlier this year. “I think we got better at staying composed. Of course (then there was) the technical foul, punching a guy in the face. We knew that scrappiness was gonna happen.”

The punch in the face came with 5:23 left in the first half when, as the Eagles brought the ball toward midcourt, Casey Jones put his elbow into Montana State sophomore forward Brandon Walker, who then hit Jones in the face, dropping the Eagles junior forward to the ground.

Walker, Montana State’s second-leading scorer, was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul, which resulted in his ejection. Jones was given a Class A technical and played on.

Montana State had just taken a 28-26 lead, and over the next 17 minutes of play, neither team led by more than five points.

But that changed after another physical altercation, when Tyler Patterson, jostling with Jones for a loose ball on the ground, was called for common and technical fouls on the same play.

With Mason Williams standing at the free-throw line for the subsequent shots, Montana State coach Matt Logie was assessed a technical – Riley had received one earlier in the game – and so the Eagles broke a 60-all tie with six consecutive made free throws, opening up their largest lead of regulation.

“The games that we lost, we felt like there were interesting plays that weren’t basketball plays to try to get our guys out of our heads,” Riley said. “We need to be mentally tough enough to weather that storm. We need to find ways to play our brand of basketball. I thought we did a better (job) in the second half of regrouping, and for the most part playing the right way and not letting the craziness affect us.”

Two minutes later, with 6:34 to go, Patterson tied the game at 68 with a 3 in the corner, and from then on in regulation, neither team led by more than four.

With 59 seconds left, redshirt freshman LeJuan Watts hit a 3 in the corner to give Eastern an 87-86 lead, and 35 seconds later Watts extended the lead by two with a back-cut layup. He finished with a career-high 21 points.

Next trip down, though, Eddie Turner III drilled a 3 from the top with 8.7 seconds left, setting up overtime, tied at 89.

Turner (24 points) opened overtime with another 3, but after that the Eagles scored the next eight, building a lead that held up.

The Eagles and Bobcats were tied 20 times, and 21 times they exchanged the lead.

“These games are really important, almost as important as any other regular-season game,” Magnuson said. “Last year we lost our last two games, and it’s hard to lose two games and then try to go and win the (Big Sky) Tournament. You want to have good momentum going into that tournament.”

Coward scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double this season. Jones finished with 18 points, including a 10-for-12 day at the free-throw line. Kyman also had 18 points, while Magnuson moved into fourth on Eastern’s all-time assists list with three more (409 career).

Eastern closes out the regular season Monday at last-place Sacramento State (8-22, 4-13). The Eagles will play either Sacramento State or the ninth-place Idaho Vandals (11-19, 5-12) in their tournament opener on March 10.

Eagles women earn share of Big Sky title

EWU 52, MSU 50: Jamie Loera hit a game-winning fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to help Eastern Washington beat Montana State 52-50 and claim at least a share of the Big Sky regular-season championship Saturday in Bozeman.

Eastern, whose other Big Sky title came in 2009-2010, will be the No. 1 seed in the league tournament regardless of what happens in Monday’s regular-season finale.

Loera, a candidate for Big Sky Player of the Year, made 7 of 13 shots and led the Eagles with 15 points and eight assists. Loera’s winning shot came 15 seconds after MSU’s Madison Hall tied the game at 50.

Eastern added to its program-record victory total and is 25-5 overall, 15-2 in Big Sky games.

Junior Jaleesa Lawrence scored 11 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots for the Eagles, who also got a career-high nine points from redshirt sophomore Ellie Boni, a University High graduate.

For the second game in a row, senior Jacinta Buckley came off the bench and led the Eagles with eight rebounds in 19 minutes. She also had eight points and two blocks.

Katelynn Limardo led the Bobcats (15-15, 9-8) with 13 points.

Eastern closes out the regular season at home against Sacramento State (5-23, 4-13) on Monday at Reese Court in Cheney. A win or Northern Arizona loss will grant the Eagles an outright title.