Tired Geoducks falter in second half, lose Cascade Conference title to Oregon Tech, 82-72
February 25, 2009
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. - Fatigue can evidence itself in a number of ways, but two stood out in the second half Tuesday night as The Evergreen State College saw a double-digit halftime lead evaporate and dropped an 82-72 decision to host Oregon Tech in the Cascade Collegiate Conference men's basketball championship game.
Both the 9 th ranked Owls (28-5) and the Geoducks (19-11) advance to the NAIA Division II National Championship tournament beginning March 11 in Branson, Missouri, but Evergreen could not prevent OIT from doing something that had not been done in five years - win both the Cascade regular season and playoff titles.
Why they couldn't may have had something to do with the nearly 1200 miles Evergreen had put on the odometer of the team bus in the past few days. The Geoducks beat Eastern Oregon University in LaGrande on Saturday night, then quickly had to turn around and travel 400 miles to Klamath Falls for the title game.
Evergreen was hammered on the boards by the Owls, grabbing just 29 to OIT's 51. Most damaging were 25 offensive rebounds, many grabbed by Oregon Tech's Australian star Josh Wetzler, who grabbed a total of 20 to go over the 1,000-rebound mark for his career. Meanwhile, Geoducks' scoring leader and league MVP Nate Menefee finished with just eight points on 1-of-12 shooting from the field.
Nick Moore and Michael Ward led Evergreen with 19 each and Julio Feliciano scored 13 before fouling out late in the game. Jguwon Hogges, the Owls 5-8 quickster, led the game with 28 points and Christian Cavanagh added 17.
The game began like anything but an Oregon Tech victory as the Geoducks jumped out to as much as a 15-point lead, 44-29 on a layup by Ward with 4:01 to play before intermission. To that point, Evergreen exhibited the same red-hot shooting that had handed Eastern Oregon its first home loss just three nights before, 54.8% including 5 of 10 from three-point range.
In addition, the Geoducks committed just two of their eventual 10 turnovers before halftime.
But the second half began on an ominous note as Cavanagh slammed down a crowd-reviving dunk in the opening moments. Less than six minutes later, the Owls took there first lead, 51-49 on a 3 by Hogges and never trailed again.
At the 9:04 mark and the score 63-60, Moore got a look at a three-pointer for Evergreen, but couldn't get it to go and the Geoducks were never in position to tie or take the lead again.
Now, both Evergreen and Oregon Tech will wait to see their seedings for the national tournament and wait to see if they will be joined by one or two at-large teams from the Cascade Conference, #10 Eastern Oregon and/or #14 Warner Pacific College.