Prior to Saturday’s matchup with Centralia, Lower Columbia College men’s basketball coach Mickey Polis challenged his team to play for a full 40 minutes.
After a close first half, Brandon Cotton canned a 3-pointer midway through the second half which jump-started the Red Devils’ offense as they pulled away from Centralia 81-68 in NWAC West Region men’s basketball on Saturday at Myklebust Gymnasium.
“Brandon has been a real steady force,” Polis said. “He made 7-11 shots, and if you’re a point guard that’s a really good game.”
The victory completed a home and home series sweep of the Trailblazers as the Red Devils won their fourth straight game and moved to 16-7, 8-1 in the region.
“We knew they’d be ready, and I told the guys to prepare for a game that would be a full 40 minutes,” Polis said. “I’m proud of how the guys stepped up at the time it needed to happen with 10 minutes left in the game.”
Cotton finished with a team-high 19 points, four assists and two steals.
“We’ve been preparing ourselves to compete in practice,” Cotton said. “We have to go out there and give it our all. We know the game will come to us, so we have to stay together and stay positive.”
Kyle Daugherty brought his ‘A’ game, particularly in the last 10 minutes. After scoring one point in the first half, the sophomore from Reno came alive and finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds (six offensive) and a pair of steals. When he wasn’t hitting mid-range jumpers, Daugherty was diving on the floor for loose balls, and grabbing key caroms.
“Kyle was a man on a mission who wasn’t going to be denied,” Polis said. “The most important number for him was having no turnovers.”
Cotton was also impressed with Daugherty’s performance, stepping in for the injured Donald Scott who is undergoing concussion protocol.
“Kyle has been giving his all in practice in recent weeks, and it showed in the game,” Cotton said. “When someone is down, we need someone to step up, and Kyle stepped up.”
The Red Devils also faced adversity later in the second half when their two post players, Dwayne Stewart and Wesley Gilbert, fouled out in the closing minutes. Polis looked down his bench, and went with freshman Bricin Ford, who responded admirably in the paint. He finished with seven points, five rebounds and blocked two shots.
“Bricin played with a lot of focus and determination at the end of the game,” Polis said. “We’re a deep team, and we can go in a variety of directions depending on the matchup or who is playing well.”
LCC continued to pad its lead in the closing minutes, and claimed its largest advantage — 80-64 — following a pair of freebies from Seth Hall with a minute remaining. The Red Devils made half of their 28 shots in the second half. They also converted 16 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points, and forced 14 Centralia turnovers which they turned into 15 points.
Spencer Sweet added 13 points, Ford had seven points, five rebounds and blocked two shots, Said Ali had four assists and three steals, and Stewart grabbed six rebounds.
The Red Devils visit Pierce on Wednesday.