OLYMPIA - There was no home security for Evergreen.
Not with the Geoducks shooting 28 percent in the first half. And not with Northwest shooting 59 percent in the second.
For the second time this season, Northwest beat the Geoducks on their home court, winning 83-72 Wednesday night in the first round of the Cascade Conference Tournament.
“They ran us to death,” said Julio Feliciano, who scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for Evergreen. “This team doesn’t have that switch where (we) can just flip it on.”
Trailing 38-26 at halftime, Evergreen opened the second half with a 14-2 run, tying the score 40-40 on Nate Menefee’s steal and lay-in. But Northwest answered with a 17-1 run, taking a 57-41 lead on Stedman Richardson’s two free throws with 14:34 left.
Evergreen never got closer than nine points again, closing to 61-52 on Menefee’s 3-pointer with 10:05 remaining in the loser-out game.
It likely was the final game for Menefee, Evergreen’s all-time leading scorer and a two-time All-American. He scored 30 of his game-high 36 points in the second half.
“I thought when we made that run, we had them,” Menefee said. “Sometimes you make your shots. Sometimes you don’t. Tonight we didn’t.”
Northwest, making lay-in after lay-in, hit 16 of 27 shots in the second half.
“We felt we had an advantage to get the ball to the basket,” Northwest coach John Van Dyke said.
After Evergreen tied the score at 40, Tyler Mendezona, Northwest’s backup guard, scored on three straight layups, sparking his team’s 9-0 run.
“We didn’t panic,” Van Dyke said. “This team never stops believing in ourselves. This team has great team chemistry.”
Northwest had five players finish in double figures, led by Greg George’s 18 points.
Home court didn’t bring any advantage in this series this season. The home team lost each game, with Evergreen winning at Northwest, 88-77, and losing the regular-season meeting at home, 82-80 in overtime.
“I’ve got nothing to say,” Evergreen coach Jeff Drinkwine said after the game.
Evergreen started the game cold, missing 12 of its first 13 shots. The Geoducks went 10-for-36 in the first half.
Menefee, who was tightly guarded by Northwest, went 2-for-10 from the field in the first half. Feliciano went 4-for-7 and was the only Geoduck to shoot 50 percent or better in the half.
“It’s not ability,” Feliciano said. “We didn’t work hard enough. It’s nothing on the coaches. We just didn’t prepare hard enough.”
The Cascade Conference gets two automatic bids for the NAIA Division II national playoffs, with one going to the regular-season champion – Oregon Tech – and one going to the tournament champion.
There remains a possibility that Evergreen, which was ranked 24th in the most recent poll, could get an at-large bid to the national tournament.
If not, Evergreen will finish 19-10 and fall short of finishing with at least 20 wins for the third straight season. Before the 2007-08 season, Evergreen had just one 20-win season in the program’s history.
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443