WENATCHEE — The Wenatchee Valley College Knights men’s basketball team took control of the game Monday against Yakima Valley College midway through the first half, then expanded the lead in the second half for the 85-64 win.
The two teams are very similar. They are both big and physical teams, which do not shoot the three very well. The Yaks were 5-1 in Northwest Athletic Conference play coming in, even though they were only 8-9 overall.
WVC started the season 15-1 but had lost the two games to North Idaho and Spokane. Yakima started the game in tight-packed zone defense, daring the Knights to shoot outside, which they did with no success early on.
The Yaks jumped out to a 12-2 lead. The Knights finally got second bucket at 13:13 with an alley-oop play to sophomore Malik Parsons. From there, WVC started playing their brand of ball.
“We tried to do some things to give our shooters a little more confidence. It didn’t start out the way I had planned, so we went back to doing those things that had us win 15 games. It ended up showing with the score,” said WVC Head Coach Jeremy Harden.
Knight freshman Jojo Pacubas hit back-to-back threes at 6:40 which forced the Yaks from their zone defense, which played into the hands of the Knights. The threes started a 16-2 run by WVC which saw them take a 28-20 lead.
“We want to draw them out a little bit. We were able to do that with a couple of threes. We were able to go back to our posts,” Harden said. “We both big physical teams. We try to pound it down low. When the three-point shot is available, it’s available. We have the size to have some post presence.”
Wenatchee led 35-30 at the half. The second half saw the Knights expand the lead as the Yaks saw four starters foul out. The second half started with an alley-oop dunk by Isaac Jones, then another Jones slam on the fast break.
That energized the crowd so much, the Yak coach called timeout.
“He’s a high flyer. He can play above the rim. He’s a true freshman. So whenever you have someone that 6-8 with his athletic ability and you have a good point guard, things can happen above the rim,” Harden said of Jones.
After a three-point play by Nick Hopkins made the score 50-34, the Yaks saw their first starter foul out, forward Chris Murphy. The Knights expanded the lead to 20 points at 54-34 with just over 10 minutes left.
The next Yak to foul out was center Charles Dent at 7:34. Point guard Isiah Storm was next, then guard Journey Buba. All the while, WVC was able to keep the lead around 20 points.
While free throw shooting was off against Spokane last Saturday, the Knights were solid from the line, 24-for-33 or 72 percent. WVC dominated on the glass, 44-18.
“I got on my guys and challenged them to grab rebounds. We gave up 21 offensive rebounds to Spokane who isn’t nearly as athletic as us. I challenged them and they responded really well,” Harden said.
From the field, the Knights were 49 percent versus 36 percent for Yakima. Neither team shot the three-ball very well. WVC was 3-for-15, while the Yaks were 4-for-14. For Harden, if there is one area they need to improve, it’s shooting the threes.
“Just confidence with our guys shooting the three-ball. We have a lot of guys that can and put in the work. If we have more of a perimeter game, that will open up the inside even more,” Harden said.
Parsons led Wenatchee with 14 points, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Jones had 14 points and 9 rebounds. Freshman Chance Michels had 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. Sophomore Abdul Abdullah had 12 points and 7 rebounds.
Freshman Raymond Guillory III had 19 points for the Yaks. Sophomore Trey Sanchez had 16 points and freshman Femi Elutilo had 10.
The Knights improve to 4-2 in the N-WAC, in third place in the Eastern Division behind Spokane (7-0), North Idaho (6-0) and Yakima (5-2). WVC is 16-3 overall.
Wenatchee is at Big Bend (1-5, 7-13) on Wednesday, then back home on Saturday against Treasure Valley (2-3, 9-7).