OLYMPIA - It might be cold outside, but there are at least two things that are hot in the South Sound these days - The Evergreen State College men's basketball team and Nate Menefee.
The Geoducks won for the 10th time in their past 11 games, rolling past visiting Northwest Christian University, 84-71, in Cascade Conference action Friday night.
Menefee, Evergreen’s 5-foot-10 senior guard, remained the hot hand with a game-high 22 points. That total is actually a bit below the 29.7-point average the recently named National NAIA Player of the Week had been averaging through the Geoducks’ previous seven games, but it was more than enough to sink a Beacons squad that normally is offensively challenged.
Northwest Christian, which is located in Eugene, Ore., averages 51.8 points a game, but the Beacons kept things interesting for the majority of the first half.
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That is, until Evergreen (15-5 overall, 8-2 conference) put together a 15-2 run that started with a pair of Amos Saffold free throws with 4 minutes, 26 seconds to go before halftime and ended with a Scott Halasz jumper that put the Geoducks up by 12 with 1:15 left in the half.
The Beacons (7-15, 3-7) did manage to trim the lead to as little as eight points a couple of times in the second half, but Evergreen handled its business, for the most part, after intermission.
“It just took a little time in the beginning to get a little chemistry, get some continuity, get used to playing with each other,” Menefee said of Evergreen’s recent hot streak. “We’ve got a pretty new team, so it took us a while to get it going, but we’ve got it going now, and we’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
Anthony Gallagher embodied that swagger during the second half. The senior scored 17 of his 19 points during the final 20 minutes and put Northwest Christian in an even deeper hole right at the start of the second half by scoring nine of the Geoducks’ first 16 points.
It was quite a turnaround for the 6-8 forward. Gallagher connected on just 1 of 4 attempts from the field during the first half but made his final seven shots.
“We challenged him right before halftime,” Geoducks coach Jeff Drinkwine said. “I said, ‘I’m going to give you four or five minutes to see what kind of energy level you can give us, and if I’m not getting what I expect from you, you’re coming out.’ He went out and responded.”
Northwest Christian was led by Ben Voogd, a transfer from the University of Oregon. The senior scored 20 points and received some help from Andrew Miller and Quentin Guidry, who added 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Evergreen continues Cascade Conference play at 7:30 p.m. today again visiting Corban College.
At Evergreen 57, Northwest Christian 55: Alex Saab nailed a 3-pointer with six seconds to play to give lift the Geoducks past the Beacons.
With 9:26 to play, Kelsey Bolander scored to give Northwest Christian its first lead since the opening minutes, 44-43.
After several lead changes, Evergreen found itself down 55-54 with 12 seconds to play but had Tana Palmason on the line to shoot two free throws. Although Palmason missed both, Katie Garcin snagged the rebound and kicked it out to Saab for what proved to be the winning basket.
Latrina Woods led Evergreen with a game-high 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting. She also had three steals.
Garcin also reached double figures with 13 points, thanks to 3-of-4 shooting on 3-pointers. Garcin also grabbed six rebounds.
Lori Renner paced Northwest Christian with 15 points, and Calie McVicker added 11 points to go with five steals.
Evergreen (7-14, 3-7) hosts Corban at 5:30 p.m. today. Northwest Christian dropped to 8-11 overall and 2-8 in the conference.