Luchterhand Leads Bearcats to Season Finale Win Over GFU; Bearcats Will Head to Whitworth for Playoff Game Thursday

NEWBERG, Ore. — Jason Luchterhand rebounded a missed George Fox University free throw that would have tied the game, then sank two free throws to preserve a 79-76 win for the Willamette University men’s basketball team in the regular season Northwest Conference men’s basketball finale for both teams Saturday night here at the Wheeler Sports Center’s Miller Gym.

Luchterhand finished with 20 points, a team-high six rebounds and three assists, leading four Bearcats in double figures. Josh Erickson scored 13, John Olinger had 12, and CJ Stuvland tossed in 10.

The win enabled the Bearcats to claim a share of second place in the conference with Whitworth College, both 13-3 in the league and a game behind first-place University of Puget Sound.

Willamette, 17-7 overall, will go to Whitworth Thursday for the NWC Tournament semi-final game, with the winner going to Puget Sound Saturday. George Fox completes its season at 16-9 overall and 9-7 in the conference, good for fourth place.

Willamette, bounced from a first-place tie in a loss at Puget Sound Friday, came out blazing, scoring the first six points on a jumper by Drew Miller, a basket by C.J. Stuvland, and two free throws by Miller.

Scott Szalay’s basket with 18:14 to go in the half got the Bruins on the board, and the home team was able to tie the game twice in the half but never took the lead.

Shooting 64.3% (18-28) for the period, the Bearcats stretched their lead to as much as nine points four times before settling for a 38-31 lead at halftime.

Josh Erickson had eight first half points. Ian Mansfield, Drew Miller, Luchterhand and Stuvland all had six in the first half.

The Bruins cut the gap to one point when Phil Heu-Weller drained a three-pointer to make it a 47-46 score with 14:49 left, but the Bearcats when on a 14-3 run to raise the lead to 12 at 61-49 with 11:27 to go.

Jacob Baran started the run with a 3-pointer. Olinger converted a conventional 3-point play before Luchterhand scored twice to push the lead to nine.

Again the Bruins rallied, and Szalay’s rebound basket with 46 seconds left made it a two-point game, 77-75, setting up a dramatic finish.
Willamette, milking the clock, took a shot by David Fife (eight second half points) with 15 seconds left but missed. Schmick’s short jumper along the baseline bounced off to Szalay, who was fouled by Luchterhand with five seconds left. Already 11-12 from the line in the game, Szalay made the first free throw to make it 77-76 but missed the second, and Luchterhand collared the rebound.

After Luchterhand’s two insurance freebies with 2.7 seconds left, Olinger intercepted Brent Satern’s long full-court pass, foiling any desperation three-pointer by the Bruins for a tie.

Szalay closed out his George Fox career with his 10th double-double of the season and 16th overall, posting game highs of 24 points and 14 rebounds.

The Bearcats finished with a 57.1% (32-56) from the field, but managed only 15.4% (2-13) from three-point range after hitting 75.0% (12-16) the first time the two teams met this season down in Salem