EVERETT, Wash. — All season, the Linn-Benton Community College men’s basketball team has used the philosophy of sharing playing time and sharing the ball.
The Roadrunners used that same recipe for success again on Saturday.
LB overcame a five-point deficit in the final 12-plus minutes and pulled away with a strong closing run to advance to the Elite Eight of the Northwest Athletic Conference tournament with an 81-72 victory over Edmonds Community College.
“We just kept getting out running and their main guys got a little tired and we knew that so we kept pushing and attacking them,” coach Everett Hartman said. “We kept rotating our bench through and played all 13 guys and nobody played more than 30 minutes.”
The Roadrunners (21-10) will now face defending champion Walla Walla at 4 p.m. Sunday in the quarterfinals. The winner advances to the semifinals, which will also be held at Everett Community College, next Saturday with the title game set for March 18.
Walla Walla defeated Centralia 84-80 to advance. The Roadrunners played Walla Walla last year and Hartman said Walla Walla handled them pretty well in that contest.
While it is a big challenge, Hartman said that’s the case no matter who you play at this stage.
“Once you get into the Sweet 16 everybody’s a solid program and a good team so we prepare like we’re playing the No. 1 team every night,” he said.
On Saturday, LB had three players in double figures, led by Trent Van Cleave’s 17. Riley Davis added 13 off the bench and Cooper Getsfrid chipped in 10.
The Roadrunners also got nine points from Taylor Jensen and Bailey Evers, and eight points from Adam Harvey. Christopher Morsa and Carter Flora had six each.
The Roadrunners trailed 57-52 with 12:21 to play, but an 8-0 spurt gave them a lead they would never relinquish as they closed the game on a 29-15 run.
The Roadrunners were 19 for 31 from the field in the second half after going 13 for 38 in the first half. Van Cleave had 11 and Davis nine after halftime.
“We kind of had to get over our stage fright the first five minutes and kind of struggled throughout the first half making any shots,” Hartman said. “But we shot the ball a lot better in the second half and they kind of got a little tired and we kept pushing the tempo and got some easy looks and fast-break lay-ins and that’s what turned it around.”
The Roadrunners trailed 40-36 at the half but outscored Edmonds 45-32 in the second half.
Hartman said he kind of expected a shaky start and he tried to reassure the team if it happened to not let it get them down.
“One of the things I said before the game was you have to control your nerves and emotions in this kind of a situation,” he said. “I expected a few air balls and a couple passes to go flying out of bounds in the stands and that’s kind of what we did. We took some wild, crazy shots and forced some things early.
"We just told them to calm down, the pace is our pace and that we needed to come out and have a good start to the second half and continue to push the ball. We just re-emphasized over and over to do what we do, do what we’ve done all year long, we've got to dance with who brung you."