WALLA WALLA - It may have taken four minutes longer than the Weston-McEwen boys basketball team hoped, but the TigerScots are in the championship game of the D.A. Davidson Christmas Classic after a 71-61 overtime win over Overlake Wednesday in Sherwood Center on the Whitman College campus.
A strong night from the line for W-M allowed the TigerScots (8-2) to put away the scrappy Owls in the additional frame after squandering a double-digit first-half lead.
"We came out and played like we know we can, but we didn't maintain that level of focus and intensity through the rest of the game, until overtime, really," said W-M head coach Brian Pickard. "We had our stretches, but they stayed after us all night so you have to give them credit for battling."
The TigerScots held Overlake scoreless through the first four minutes, while building a six-point lead on 3-pointers from Miles Thul and Dallas Reich. The deep shot would remain a main theme for W-M over the rest of the evening as the TigerScots drained seven treys on the night.
"I think we showed some great poise out there tonight," said Overlake head coach Justin Prohn. "That's a great team we played, but even when they got out early on us, we buckled down and let our defense get us back into the game."
Overlake's defense was in prime form in the third quarter, when the Owls held W-M to just seven points, while cutting a 29-23 halftime spread into only a one-point gap heading into the final eight minutes and setting up a frantic, back-and-forth fourth quarter.
Overlake seized its first lead of the night on the first possession of the fourth when guard Cameron Lui, who finished the night with 19 points, hit a runner to give the Owls a 37-36 edge.
"That was quite a fourth quarter," Pickard said. "It's really good for our guys to get through a situation with a team that is matching them shot for shot and to get the kind of experience you can only get from playing in a game like this one."
The Owls stretched their lead to three before a backdoor cut and a pass from Thul to W-M leading scorer Tyler Babb, who finished the night with 24 points, tied the score at 41 at the 4:55 mark on a three-point play.
Neither team opened up a lead of more than two points during the remainder of regulation, and Overlake broke a 50-all tie on a Lui layup with 21 seconds on the clock.
W-M responded by marching down the floor and working the ball inside to Reich, who was hacked in the lane to give him the chance to tie the game at the line with 10 seconds left in regulation.
After making the first shot, Reich bricked the second, but Babb swooped in for the offensive rebound. However, his put-back was long.
The loose ball was corralled by Reich's teammate Ron Tereson, who knocked down a short range jumper to give W-M a 53-52 with only five ticks showing on the big board.
"Their guys got in there on the offensive glass on that play," Prohn said. "That's just the way the ball bounces sometimes, but we still had our shot to win it in regulation."
The Owls drove the ball the length of the floor in less than five seconds before setting Jacob Gilles for a potential lay-in to steal the win, but he was fouled with less than a second to go.
After hitting his first attempt, Gilles missed the potential game-winner, leaving the game tied at 53 after 32 minutes.
From there it became a battle of wills and free-throw shooting, both of which were won by the TigerScots in the extra stanza.
"We have been preaching free throw shooting with these kids since they were in junior high, and I think you could see that tonight," Pickard said. "We played some great clutch basketball in overtime, and we stepped it back up on the defensive end."
On the night, the TigerScots forced 25 turnovers and nailed 20-of-28 free throws en route to the decisive 18-8 run in the added period.
They also got 16 points from Reich and 14 from Thul in the game, while Dean Poplawski finished the night as the Owls scoring leader with 22 points.
"The only team that we really see that's in this tournament is DeSales, so it's an exciting chance to get to play against teams that may not know us as well as some other teams do and to play teams that we don't know too much about either," Pickard said. "It was a great game, and we know we earned the right to play in the championship game."
Weston McEwen 71, Overlake 61, OT
WESTON-MCEWEN (71) - Greenwalt 0-3 0-3 0, Thul 5-15 1-1 14, Speed 0-1 0-0 0, McGill 2-5 0-0 5, Babb 8-15 7-8 24, Salter 0-2 2-2 2, Reich 5-15 4-616, Terjeson 2-5 6-11 10, Christopher 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 22-64 20-28 71.
OVERLAKE (61) - Poplawski 7-14 4-4 22 Gilles 4-7 1-3 9, Helario 0-0 0-1 0, Umberger 2-6 0-1 4, G. Munoz 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 1-2 0-0 3, M. Munoz 0-0 0-0 0, Spencer 2-4 0-0 4, Lui 7-16 5-8 19, Donaldson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 10-17.
WM 14 15 7 17 18 - 71
Over 6 17 12 18 8 - 61
3-point goals - WM 7 (Thul 3, McGill 1, Babb 1, Reich 2 ), Over 5 (Poplawski 4, Johnson 1). Total fouls- WM 20, Over 22. Fouled out- WM 1 (Thul), Over 2 (Gilles, Donaldson). Technical fouls- None. Rebounds- WM 43 (Reich 12), Over 27 (Spencer 7). Turnovers- WM 21, Over 25.