Cheney Free Press -

 
 

By PAUL DELANEY
Staff Reporter 

Final shots don't fall for EWU in loss to Weber

Eagles' 82-78 loss keeps them out of Big Sky tourney again

 

Paul Delaney

Eastern Washington's Venky Jois drives against a Weber State opponent Saturday.

In a game that started and ended for Eastern Washington with notable runs, time just ran out on the Eagles – and ultimately their season – last Saturday.

But even as the precious final seconds ticked away they squeezed every bit out of the clock to try to improve on a 10-2 run over the game's final 2 minutes, 25 seconds.

Drew Brandon's potential game-tying shot with seven seconds left missed, but he picked up the rebound and still fed Parker Kelly whose 3-point try from the top of the arc with four seconds remaining bounced off the rim.

That allowed Weber State to earn an 82-78 Big Sky Conference men's basketball win before a crowd of 2,058 at Reese Court.

The loss for the Eagles, coupled with situations out of their control across the rest of the league from Cedar City, Utah to Sacremento, Calif., ultimately eliminated Eastern from the conference postseason tournament for a second year in a row.

Eastern, (10-10 Big Sky, 15-16 overall) which earned a 77-69 win over Idaho State last Thursday to stay in the playoff race, watched helplessly as none of the puzzle pieces they needed would fit. They needed a Northern Colorado loss at Southern Utah – the Bears won 77-52 – or a Sacramento State loss at home to Montana State to advance. The Hornets scored an 84-59 victory.

"We had a look to tie it, and then we had a look to win it," Eastern head coach Jim Hayford said. "Parker's (shot) was a great look, it just went in and out."

Win and the Eagles would be playing starting tonight through Saturday in Ogden, Utah. The tournament host Wildcats finished the regular season 14-6 and 17-11 overall. But heading into Saturday's finale Weber State had lost four of its last six.

And when Eastern jumped to a 9-0 lead to open the game – a run that started prior to tip-off when Tyler Harvey sunk a pair of free throws for a Weber technical foul in warm-ups – things looked good for the Eagles.

But Weber State stormed out of their early cold spell and outscored Eastern 23-2 by the 9:54 mark to take a 23-11 lead and seemed to be breezing until the Eagles used the next four minutes to craft their own 10-2 run, closing it to 25-21, Wildcats, at the 6:07 mark.

Eastern and Weber traded points until Jeremy Senglin canned a pair of 3-pointers in the final 1:23 sending the Wildcats into the break with a 43-32 lead.

Out of the locker room, Weber slowly built an 18 point lead with eight minutes remaining in the game following Joel Bolomboy's dunk, Weber's third straight uncontested jam.

Then Big Sky scoring leader Tyler Harvey – limited to just six first-half points, four of those from the free throw line and 0-for-3 from the 3-point range – went to work. He scored 12 of the Eagles next 14 points, an effort that slowly sliced into the Wildcat lead.

A Felix Von Hofe 3 cut it to single digits with 4:26 remaining. Kelly's free throws with 3:49 to play capped Eastern's 17-8 run and made it a 73-66 game. Weber free throws pushed it back to a 10-point game at 78-68 but four straight points from Harvey and a pair of Brandon free throws with 1:50 to play made it 78-74 WSU.

Von Hofe's field goal and a Kelly layup, sandwiched around a missed layup by Bolomboy capped Eastern's next run, 10-2, and drew the Eagles to within a basket at 80-78 with 48 seconds to play.

When Jordan Richardson missed his 3-point try from the right side of the arc with 15 seconds to play, Brandon grabbed the rebound and raced up the court all the way to the basket, missing the layup but setting up Kelly for the last-gasp try.

"We were that close to one of the greatest comebacks in college basketball," Hayford said. "It was a great basketball game. Everyone got their money's worth today."

Harvey, despite going 0-for-6 from 3-point range, was perfect from the free throw line for 12 of his 24 points. Kelly had 20 and Ognjen Miljkovic had 11 as the only other Eagle in double figures. Davion Berry's 24 points were tops for Weber.

A key stat among many in the game might have been Eastern forcing Weber into 16 turnovers, but converting those for just 17 points.

Thursday night Eastern's defense limited Idaho State to 34 percent shooting from the field, including allowing the Bengals to just 5-of-26 3-point attempts.

The Eagles stymied ISU in the first half and led 37-23 before the visitors mounted a second-half comeback that fell short. The loss eliminated ISU from the postseason .

Harvey, serving in the role of point guard for Brandon who was nursing a deep bruise to his hand, finished with 22 points and a career high 10 rebounds to nail down the sophomore's first double-double.

Kelly pitched in with 16, but his role was to stop ISU leading scorer Chris Hansen – and he did – limiting him to just 11 points, down from his 16.7 average. Martin Seiferth had 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Jois added 12 points but had six blocked shots. Von Hofe rounded out the EWU players in double figured with 11 points.

After trailing big at the break, the Bengals cut the lead to five in the second half. However, in a 24-second span Harvey hit a 3, Jois had a block and Seiferth a dunk that returned it to 48-38 lead with 13:03 to play.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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