It took overtime, but the Saint Martin’s University men’s basketball program has its longest winning streak in four years.
Tyler Copp scored 20 points, freshman Jordan Kitchen added 18 points and 13 rebounds, and the Saints have their first three-game winning streak since 2011 after defeating the University of Hawaii-Hilo, 86-85, at Marcus Pavilion on Tuesday.
“Learning how to win close games is a skill,” said first-year SMU coach Alex Pribble. “It’s a skill, and it’s very important particularly for young teams who are still developing their identity. This is a confidence builder and a learning experience for us.”
Kitchen, whose putback with 12 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 84, came up with two huge plays in overtime; first grabbing an offensive rebound and assisting on Michael Painter’s bucket with 50 seconds remaining to give the Saints an 83-80 lead, then blocking a shot on the other end.
“Jordan Kitchen played a phenomenal game tonight,” Pribble said. “He was great on both ends. His effort was good and the most impressive thing was he held Parker Farris, who is a very good player averaging 30 points a game to 12 points. Jordan is a great example of where our team’s at. He’s young and he’s learning, and getting better every day.”
Copp converted three free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal the victory, while Cole Preston scored five of his nine points in overtime for the Saints (3-2).
SMU also got 12 points from Fred Jorg and 10 from Isaac Bianchini.
The Saints, who went 6-22 last season, will look to post their first four-game winning streak on Saturday when they host Douglas College at 2 p.m.
Nate Walker, a graduate of Tacoma’s Foss High School, paced Hawaii-Hilo (0-4) with 29 points.
The Vulcans shot 78.9 percent (15 of 19) from two-point territory and 63 percent overall (17 of 28) in the first half to take a 41-36 lead into halftime.
Copp sank all three of his 3-point attempts and both his free throws during an 11-point first half for the junior guard.
The opening 20 minutes featured just one tie but 13 lead changes with neither team enjoying much breathing room.
Early back-to-back 3-pointers from Copp helped SMU grab a six-point cushion 5 minutes into the contest.
Hawaii-Hilo battled back behind the play of Walker, who scored 16 points in the first half. He was able to get to the free throw line multiple times during the closing moments of the half, and the Saints turned the ball over four times during a late three-minute stretch — including being called for consecutive offensive fouls, which led to the four-point halftime advantage for Hawaii-Hilo.
A 3-point from Painter 5 1/2 minutes into the second second tied the game at 48.
The Saints, however, needed 8 1/2 more minutes of play before they were able to finally wrestle the lead away from the Vulcans. Rhett Baerlocher’s shot clock-beating layup with 6 minutes to play was followed by a Bianchini 3-pointer, which capped a 13-4 run and gave SMU a 66-61 lead.
Walker put the Vulcans up 74-72 with a free throw with 25 seconds to play in regulation, but Kitchen’s putback sent the contest into overtime.
Preston, quiet offensively during regulation, hit his first two field goal attempts of OT, including a 3-pointer that pushed the Saints out in front for good at 79-76.
Geoducks halt skid
The Evergreen State College men’s basketball halfted a two-game skid Friday with a 117-87 win over Northwest Indian College.
Danny Powell posted a double-double with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and Brock Otis was 9 of 11 from the floor for 20 points.
The Geoducks (2-4) open Cascade Collegiate Conference play Tuesday in Kirkland against Northwest University.
Staff writer Lauren Smith contributed to this report.