Warrior 3s turn out lights on Saints

WWCC's men score 51 of their 71 points from downtown in the 71-66 win over Mount Hood for fourth place Tuesday.

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Walla Walla Community College's Jake Gibson (center) hangs onto the ball on a steal from Mount Hood's Jamar Johnson (left) during the second half Tuesday.

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Warriors Ryan Andrews (left) and D.J. Wright celebrate following their victory over Mount Hood, earning them fourth place at the NWAACC Championships Tuesday.

KENNEWICK - In the end, the Warriors got their trophy.

After four games in as many days, the Walla Walla Community College men sealed their fourth-place trophy with a victory over Mount Hood, 71-66, here Tuesday afternoon in the NWAACC basketball championships.

"All I wanted was hardware," said sophomore D.J. Wright, who led the Warriors with 21 points, a season high. Wright averaged about seven points per game in the regular season.

"I'm not much of a shooter, but I saw that we were cold and needed something, so I tried to heat things up," he said.

That he did, hitting 7-of-8 second-half treys to add 21 points to the Warriors' tally.

And if it wasn't a 3, it rarely left the Warriors' fingers - they nailed 17-of-38 in the game.

Free throws added only two points to the Warriors' score.

Though the Saints tried and often threatened, they couldn't answer the Warriors' treys.

But for most of the first half, Mount Hood wore down the Warriors, forcing wild WWCC passes, dropped balls and shots off target.

The Warriors even built a 10-point lead, only to see the Saints come back with nine unanswered on the board to cut it to one at 21-20. They closed the half at 29-25, Warriors ahead.

With 13 minutes to go in the second half, a flurry of treys by Wright, Jason Smith, Ryan Andrews and Aaron Van de Graaf built the Warriors' back to an 11-point lead.

Looks can be deceiving, though, and the Saints, again, took advantage of Warriors turnovers to get back into the game. They made 23 points off Warrior turnovers in the game, while WWCC capitalized for 19.

At the 9:21 mark, it was a six-point game, with Walla Walla up 54-48. But by the 7:22 mark, the Saints gained two on free throws after a foul by Andrews, making it a one-point game, 54-53.

A final foul at 3:54 saw Andrews leave the court, and his time in black and gold, with five personals, nine points and a game-high eight assists.

Another trey by Wright with 2:53 to play kept the Warriors ahead 67-60, but the Saints hit a field goal and two from the line, closing it to 67-64 with 42.6 seconds left.

The Saints missed a shot, and WWCC's Nate Gibson ended up with possession. Gibson ran the shot clock down and hit for two points with 5.7 seconds to play, 69-64.

A final two freebies by the Saints on a foul by Van de Graaf drew them closer.

Van de Graaf sealed it up at the buzzer with two, closing out the season and the tournament, 71-66.

"That was a great finish for the sophomores," said head Warriors coach Jeff Reinland. "It's a great game for them to go out on."

Wright, Andrews, Van de Graaf, Emery Henning, Alex Roll, Kody Fullerton and Ben Searle are all sophomores.

But freshmen - like Gibson, with six points; Jason Smith, with 15; and Aaron Corsi, with two - are a strong foundation for next season.

"We've got a good nucleus coming back," Reinland said. "I'm excited to get going next year."

A long tournament weekend, including daily trips to and from the Toyota Center from Walla Walla, did show on the Warriors Tuesday, Reinland said.

"I really didn't feel we were ready to play," he said. "I could sense it on the bus. The guys just looked tired. Every game we've played here has been tough and it's been a grueling schedule.... The last game is always sloppy, especially when you're not playing for the championship."

That made the win a little bittersweet, he said.

"But we got it done, and they did great."

MOUNT HOOD (66) - Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 2-5 0-0 6, Rickert 1-1 1-2 4, Johnson 2-8 4-4 9, Williams 0-0 1-2 1, Strasburg 4-7 3-4 11, D. Jones 4-8 2-4 11, J. Jones 4-13 5-6 13, Weitzel 2-7 3-4 7, Gepford 2-5 0-1 4. Totals 21-54 19-27 66.

WALLA WALLA (71) - Wright 7-11 0-0 21, Roll 0-0 0-0 0, Andrews 3-5 0-0 9, Steele 0-0 0-0 0, Gibson 2-6 2-2 6, Van de Graaf 4-9 0-0 10, Fullerton 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 5-20 0-0 15, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Corsi 1-3 0-1 2, Henning 4-6 0-0 8. Totals 26-60 2-3 71.

Halftime score - WWCC 29, Mount Hood 25. 3-point goals - Mt. Hood 5 (Johnson 2, Rickert, Johnson, Jones), Walla Walla 17 (Wright 7, Smith 5, Andrews 3, Van de Graaf 2). Total fouls - Mt. Hood 11, Walla Walla 18. Defensive Rebounds - Mount Hood 20 (J. Jones 7), Walla Walla 22 (Wright 7, Andrews 7). Offensive Rebounds - Mount Hood 14 (Jones 3), Walla Walla 16 (Wright 3, Gibson 3). Fouled out - Walla Walla 1 (Andrews). Technical fouls - none. Turnovers - Mount Hood 17, Walla Walla 21. Assists - Mount Hood 13 (Johnson 6), Walla Walla 23 (Andrews 8).

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