PASCO — Peninsula College was tested until the final buzzer in a 79-76 NWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament victory over Linn-Benton on Thursday on Holden Court at Columbia Basin College.
The Pirates had an eight-point lead with a minute to play in the final quarter, but Linn-Benton didn’t go anywhere, trimming the lead to three and getting two chances to tie the game up with less than 10 seconds remaining.
But the Roadrunners couldn’t get a shot attempt at the basket with Linn-Benton’s first try to tie ending when Tati Kamae poked the ball out of bounds and the second-chance window closing with Linn-Benton unable to get any kind of a look at the rim before the clock ran out.
“A win is a win at this point in the season,” coach Alison Crumb said. “I’m glad I get to coach at least another game with these girls. But we have to handle the end-game scenario better. We haven’t played a close game in a really long time, and it showed.”
The top-seeded Pirates (21-4) advanced to today’s NWAC Elite 8 showdown with East region runner-up Walla Walla (23-7) today at 2 p.m. Peninsula fell 61-54 to the Warriors in its season opener.
Peninsula overcame foul trouble that required three starters — North Region MVP Ituau Tuisaula, Defensive MVP Millie Long and Adam Kaganak to sit for long stretches of the first half — Kaganak had three fouls by the 8:16 mark of the second quarter, Tuisaula was saddled with her second foul with 6:02 left while Long went to the bench with her third foul with 3:09 left in the half.
Chasity Selden carried much of the scoring load for Peninsula off the bench in the first half as she scored 12 of her 17 points by the break. Talia Marini also stepped up with five of her 10 points in the second quarter as the Pirates hit 3 of 6 3-point tries in the first half.
“We missed some shots we normally make, but we hit some really big shots, too,” Crumb said.
“Chas is one of our better scorers; she’s a mismatch. Talia came in and played tough and hit big shots. And Gina Brown played well off the bench.”
Despite the contributions from its reserves, Peninsula had some trouble with turnovers and the Pirates were only tied with Linn-Benton 38-38 at halftime thanks to Kamae’s layup and foul shot just before the second-quarter buzzer.
Even with three fouls, Long wasn’t to be denied to open the third quarter.
Long blocked a shot on the first defensive possession of the third quarter and then scored Peninsula’s first basket on a steal and runout layup.
The Pirates took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter at 62-56 after getting big 3s from Marini and Selden, when she drained a triple out of an out-of-bounds play with less than 5 seconds left on the shot clock.
Tuisaula came up clutch in the fourth, scoring seven of her game-high 22 points. She also added 14 rebounds, 10 on the offensive glass. Three of those offensive rebounds led to second-chance points in the fourth quarter as Tuisaula collected a pair of errant jump shots for putbacks. She also rebounded a third miss and found Kamae inside for a 78-70 lead with 1:38 to play.
“She’s so hard to guard for four quarters,” Crumb said of Tuisaula. “If she stays aggressive for four quarters, she’s going to get a ton of rebounds, score and do so many of the right things for us.”
Tuisaula fouled out with 2:06 to play, and Linn-Benton made its run, coming within one made 3-point basket of overtime.
“We didn’t close out the game well at all,” Crumb said. “We fouled on a made shot, we didn’t get out of a timeout fast enough. We have to handle it way better. So we take that and learn from it. But we are pretty excited to survive and advance.”
Peninsula 79, Linn-Benton 76
LB 21 17 18 20 — 76
PC 19 19 24 17 — 79
Linn-Benton (76) — Hankwitz 17, Ray 14, Dutkiewicz 13, Albee 10, Krebs 9, Jones-Hoisington 8, Hale 3, Snelling 2.
Peninsula (79) — Tuisaula 22, Selden 17, Marini 10, Kamae 9, Long 9, Donovan 5, Brown 4, Kaganak 3, Moss.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at email@example.com.