Central Washington’s losing streak extends to 6 games as it falls to Saint Martin’s 80-79
LACEY — Two big free throws almost snapped the Central Washington University men’s basketball team’s five-game losing streak.
Instead, the Wildcats watched as Saint Martin’s came up big at the line in the final seconds, extending CWU’s losing skid to six games.
Just seconds after Fuquan Niles hit two clutch free throws to take the lead with 14 seconds remaining in Thursday’s game, Saint Martin’s University came down the court and made two free throws of its own to come up with a 80-79 win.
Jawan Stepney had a chance to win the game but his fall-away jump shot in the corner came up short.
“We dug ourself into a hole but we battled back and had an opportunity to win,” said CWU head coach Greg Sparling. “We just came up short. I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”
Problems started before the Wildcats entered Brough Pavilion. They were almost two hours late because Snoqualmie Pass was closed. As soon as the game tipped off, CWU could not find its touch as it watched Saint Martin’s make its first five 3-pointers to take a 21-8 lead.
The Wildcats could not get in any rhythm as Dom Hunter missed a 3-pointer, followed by a 3-pointer by freshman Cameron Burton.
Sage Woodruff finally hit his first 3-pointer and led a comeback as he scored 10 of the next 13 points to cut the deficit from 21 points lead to 10 points.
“I was really trying to make myself available and knock the shots down when I got the opportunity,” Woodruff said. “They were collapsing on Dom and some of our other scorers.“
CWU kept the momentum during the final minutes before halftime as scores by Niles and Stepney made the deficit just five points as the teams entered the locker room.
“Going into our zone defense helped a lot,” Sparling said.
The Wildcats tried to keep the momentum during the second half, but every time they would get within a bucket, Saint Martin’s answered on the other end with outside shots. The Saints took a 66-58 lead with 8:37 remaining after Brandon Kenilvort hit a 3-pointer, but the Wildcats answered with some outside shots of their own.
Hunter has struggled over the last five games, but found his touch late in the game. The Federal Way native scored 17 points and hit three consecutive 3-pointers to cut the game to within a point. On the next possession, Niles hit two free throws to take a 70-68 lead.
The Wildcats held the lead until the final 40 seconds when the Saints’ Trey Martin hit a 3-pointer in the corner.
Niles made his two free throws but Saint Martin’s got fouled on the next possession and its two free throws sealed the game.
“We played with a lot of energy tonight,” Sparling said. “We could have (complained) because of the drive but we dialed it in. We just came up short.”
CWU now travels to Seattle to face Seattle Pacific University on Saturday. The Wildcats won the first meeting 89-85 on Jan 12.
“Our biggest problem was rebounding,” Woodruff said. “We just have to toughen up.”
Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m.