PENDLETON — As the old adage says, you can’t win games in the first half. But as the Blue Mountain Community College men proved Wednesday night, you sure can lose them there.
BMCC came out shooting boulders into Dixie Cups in the first half, managing just 13 points while making 15 percent of its shots. Even a 50-point second half couldn’t help make up the difference as Walla Walla Community College would take the game and the final NWAACC Championship tournament spot behind an 82-63 victory.
“Anytime you’re dealing with kids, 18- or 19-year-olds, they put a lot of pressure on themselves,” Blue Mountain coach Adam Ellis said. “It’s one of those situations you can call 100 timeouts trying to settle them down but it wouldn’t have worked tonight.”
Only Nate Walker had a productive first half for BMCC. He scored the first seven points for the team before picking up his second foul near the midway point of the half and heading to the bench. His foul gave WWCC two free throws to run the score to 11-7 and his absence was quickly felt. The Timberwolves completed only one more field goal before halftime.
Walla Walla finished the half on a 25-6 run.
Blue Mountain’s struggles were only compounded by a savage defensive front from the Warriors. They forced 16 turnovers in the game and put hands in front of nearly every first-half shot.
“Coaches always taught us to work out tails off and play fundamental (defense) and we’ll be there in the end,” said Walla Walla forward Dallas Reich, a freshman and last year’s Blue Mountain Conference player of the year as a high schooler with Weston-McEwen. “This time we didn’t really need to be there in the end. We were there in the first half.”
Reich scored nine points in the game, finishing on a 3-of-4 shooting streak after missing his first three shots in the early goings. He added six rebounds as well.
The dire first half went immediately into the rear view mirror for the T-Wolves. BMCC would double that 13 points in a matter of minutes on its way to a 50-point second half, but WWCC was right there to keep pace. When Walla Walla’s Case Rada drove in for a layup following a missed BMCC shot with about eight minutes left in the game, the basket game his team a 30-point lead — its highest of the night.
Rada finished with 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting and he and his teammates made 73 percent of their second-half shots. Blue Mountain’s much-improved 49 percent shooting for the half was still a hill next to the real mountain.
Tyler Adams scored a team-high 21 points for the T-Wolves, 19 of which came in the second half. Walker would finish with 16 points. The home team shaved the deficit to as little as 18 points just before the final whistle, but the outcome was long decided by that point.
As the game clock at Mosby Court ran down on the Timberwolves’ 2012-13 campaign, the few sophomores that experienced the lows of last season couldn’t focus on the improvements of this one. They picked up three more wins in conference play, five overall. But the most elusive one wound up in the loss column.
“It broke my heart, just to be that close,” said Adams, one of two second-year players on the BMCC roster, along with Walker, this winter.
Despite the improved record, coach Ellis stopped short of calling the season a success.
“We had goals and we didn’t achieve them,” he said, speaking about an NWAACC tournament berth. “Maybe in the eyes of other people you can call it a success.”
The NWAACC Championship begins on March 2 in Kennewick, Wash., where Walla Walla and the other top four teams in each of the NWAACC’s four regions will start the final push for a title.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.