Western men’s basketball fended off a ferocious comeback bid from Seattle Pacific University to secure an 89-87 win, and its first Greater Northwest Athletic Conference division title since 2014.
“It’s exciting,” Western’s head coach Tony Dominguez said. “You always set goals and you have different steps you want to take. This is definitely a huge step we wanted.”
With 17.8 seconds left and holding onto a 2-point lead, Western’s freshman forward Daulton Hommes scooped up a loose ball, drew the foul, made a free throw and gave Western all the momentum they would need.
“We’re hunted. We’re on top, we’re a ranked team. That’s tough when you’re always the hunted. I felt like our guys toughed up at the end. They worked very hard in the offseason, so I’m very proud of them and excited they achieved it.”
“I just wanted to fight for it,” Hommes said. “I knew someone needed to make a play down the stretch for us to get this win.”
Holding an 87-84 lead after Hommes’ free throw, Western let Seattle Pacific drop in an easy layup, bringing the Falcons within one.
Western’s senior guard Taylor Stafford got fouled on the ensuing play and hit both free throws, bringing the score to 89-86 with 5.7 seconds left.
With one second remaining, the Vikings intentionally fouled Falcon guard Sharif Khan. Khan made the front end of a one-and-one, and deliberately missed the second free throw, hoping for an offensive rebound and bucket.
The loose ball got juggled around for a second until time expired, giving Western the win and the conference title.
After shooting 63.6 percent from long range in the first half, and taking a 46-37 lead going into the break, Western faced an aggressive Seattle Pacific team coming out of the locker room.
“They’re trying to get into the playoffs,” Dominguez said.
“They have a lot more anger and motivation inside of them to do well in this game.”
Clenching a 12-point lead with 4:55 remaining, Western began giving up dribble-drive penetration, allowing Seattle Pacific to eat away at the lead with layup baskets.
“Their backs were against the wall,” Hommes said. “They were giving everything they had. They knocked down some shots and gave us a really good game.”
Seattle Pacific pulled within two with 26 seconds remaining, until Hommes’ loose ball steal preserved the lead and momentum.
“It feels great,” Hommes said. “We’ve worked really hard. This is just a small part of our season, we want to keep playing for as long as we can.”
Dominguez praised his teams’ perseverance and will to win during a game where a division title was on the line.
“We’re hunted,” Dominguez said. “We’re on top, we’re a ranked team. That’s tough when you’re always the hunted. I felt like our guys toughed up at the end. They worked very hard in the offseason, so I’m very proud of them and excited they achieved it.”