EVERETT — Lower Columbia College made 52 percent of its shots, but Walla Walla drilled 19 three-pointers in an 87-73 victory over the Red Devils in the semifinals of the NWAC Men’s Basketball Championships held at the Walt Price Recreation Center on Saturday in Everett.
The Red Devils finished their season 23-9. Walla Walla (24-8), led by ex-Kelso High boys basketball coach Jeff Reinland, advances to face Tacoma in the conference championship game at 5:15 p.m. Sunday.
Tacoma eliminated Umpqua 79-74 in the tournament’s other semifinal game, also on Saturday.
The Warriors made nine three-pointers in the first half as they grabbed a 37-31 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Red Devils caught fire offensively. LCC made an eye-popping 62 percent of their shots (16-26), but were outscored 50-42 in the period as Walla Walla netted 10-17 shots from long-range. The Red Devils finished making 27-52 shots, compared to 31-69 shooting for the Warriors, 45 percent.
Defensively, the Warriors forced 15 turnovers, which they converted into 13 points. Walla Walla, which was undersized compared to the Red Devils, held the edge on the boards 34-31 with 10 offensive rebounds.
Keun Palu-Thompson led LCC with 21 points and seven rebounds. Marcus Lord added 13 points, Devin Johnson tossed in 12 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Spencer Sweet scored 11 points. Brandon Cotton came off the bench to toss in 10 points and dish five assists.
Caulin Bakalarski scored 17 of his game-high 33 points in the second half, grabbed eight rebounds and made three steals for the Warriors. Landon Ratliff added 21 points, five rebounds and six assists, Gabe Porter netted 17 points, made three steals and dished three assists, and Dalton Thompson finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.