Alex Weber-Brader’s right shoulder hit the floor first, absorbing the brunt of a painful-looking spill.
Life was safer on the bench — a place the Seattle Pacific freshman could be found the entire first half and much of the second, completely out of harm’s way.
But what’s a little soreness compared to providing that much-needed spark your team needs?
The Olympia High School graduate came off the bench and scored all eight of his points in the second half, helping the Falcons defeat Central Washington University, 85-78, in the semifinals of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament Friday at Saint Martin’s University.
Seattle Pacific (24-3) will play top-seeded Western Washington (27-1) for the tournament championship at 7:30 p.m. today.
David Downs led Seattle Pacific with 18 points, while teammates Patrick Simon and Jobi Wall chipped in 17 and 15, respectively. But it was Weber-Brader who energized the tournament’s No. 2 seed with his play during the game’s final 10 minutes.
“I thought we had a lack of energy,” said Seattle Pacific coach Ryan Looney. “It got to a point in the game where we got down and I figured we had to try something different. Alex turned things around for us.”
Central Washington (16-13) clawed its way back from a seven-point deficit behind the play of Mark McLaughlin, who scored a game-high 25 points a day after scoring a tournament-record 32 points in the Wildcats 79-78 quarterfinal victory over Alaska Anchorage.
By the time Weber-Brader entered the game, Central Washington held its largest lead of the contest at 59-56 with 10 minutes, 44 seconds left in the game.
“We seemed a little lackadaisical tonight,” Weber-Brader said. “I just wanted to bring as much energy as I could.”
A quick bucket from Weber-Brader opened up a 12-2 run for the Falcons.
Weber-Brader hit all four of his free throw attempts during the run, helping Seattle Pacific to a 68-61 lead.
“You really don’t have any time to warm up in situations like that,” Weber-Brader said. “You just try to get right into the flow of the game.”
Central Washington was able to tie up the game at 74 on a McLaughlin runner with 2:11 to play and had another chance to tie it at 79 with 15 seconds remaining, but McLaughlin’s 3 fell short.
“We really pride ourselves on rebounding and defense,” Looney said, “but (Central) did some things tonight that made us look silly.”
The Falcons sealed the game by going 9 of 10 from the free throw line during the final 2 minutes of the game.
Western Washington 61, Alaska Fairbanks 43: Forward Paul Jones, a graduate of Kent-Meridian, led a balanced attack with 12 points while John Allen and Cameron Severson both chipped in 11 points apiece as top-seeded Vikings avenged their only loss on the season by advancing to the championship game with a semifinal win over the No. 4 seeded Nanooks (16-12).
Western Washington, the defending NCAA Division II national champions, improved to 27-1 with the victory.
Western Washington 60, Northwest Nazarene 49: The top-seeded Vikings advanced to the GNAC women’s championship for the third consecutive season with a semifinal victory over the fifth-seeded Crusaders.
Britt Harris (13 points) was one of three players to score in double figures for Western Washington, which has won seven in a row and 18 out of its past 19 games.
Northwest Nazarene’s Megan Hingston led all scorers with 21 points.
Western Washington (24-3) will face off against No. 2 Simon Fraser today at 5:15 p.m. in the tournament championship..
Simon Fraser 66, Seattle Pacific 55: Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, the GNAC player of the year, poured in 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Erin Chambers scored a game-high 20 points as the second-seeded Clan punched their ticket to the championship game by knocking off the sixth-seeded Falcons.
Simon Fraser (23-4) shot a chilly 23.3 percent from the field in the first half and trailed, 25-21, at halftime before sinking 17 of 28 shots from the field (60.7 percent) in the second half.
Chambers and Katie Lowen each hit three 3-pointers for the Clan, which forced Seattle Pacific into 22 turnovers.
The Falcons (17-11) were paced offensively by Katie Benson’s 14 points with Aubree Callen chipping in 13 points.