Linfield men's basketball gets much needed win
In Linfield’s 70-65 win Friday over Puget Sound at Ted Wilson Gymnasium, the Wildcats forward used his power and size to help Linfield (3-12, 2-4) beat the Loggers (6-9, 1-5), and more importantly, break a five-game losing streak.
“Batiuk had a monster game,” Linfield coach Larry Doty said. “His numbers were unbelievable. Simply a monster game.”
Batiuk, a sophomore, finished the game 9-of-14 shooting with 25 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. The Wildcats shot 24-of-47 and out-rebounded the Loggers 39-33.
“This is a big confidence booster for us,” Batiuk said. “There’ve been so many games where we’ve been so close and this game we finally pushed through, and beat a team we can and should beat. It gives a lot of motivation going forward.”
Batiuk’s size helped Linfield on a 9-0 run after trailing 2-0, but the teams traded baskets for most of the first half’s early minutes.
After a Linfield timeout, Linfield sophomore Nick Cantonwine found some opportunities to get off some shots from some Batiuk passes, and he didn’t disappoint.
Cantonwine drilled a 3-pointer with seven minutes left that gave Linfield the 24-19 lead — its largest of the game. Linfield continued the run and after a pair of free throws from Batiuk that put the Wildcats up 30-23.
“When we came out we looked pretty lackadaisical,” Batiuk said. “(Doty) got into us a little bit, which he needed to do. We needed some fire. After the timeout we were able to fight back.”
McMinnville native Brandon Harris made sure the Wildcats ended the half with the lead. He knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner that gave Linfield a 10-point advantage with three minutes left, and Linfield went to the break with a 35-27 lead.
It took Puget Sound two minutes into the second half to cut Linfield’s lead to 35-32 and tied the game at 36 with two free throws from Rex Holmes. The teams were once again back to trading baskets, but Batiuk knocked down a 15-foot jump shot to give the Wildcats a 45-42 lead.
“Turnovers hurt us in the second half,” Doty said. “Then (Puget Sound) were mixing it up and went to a zone, and we became stagnant on the offensive end and it took us a long time to get organized and get into something.”
The Loggers seized a 63-55 lead with 4:40 remaining in the game, but the trio of Batiuk, Harris and Cantonwine brought the score to 63-60 after a Batiuk rebound and pass outside to Harris, who knocked down a 3-pointer.
“We’ve really worked on being aware of the ball and finding our spots,” Batiuk said. “When someone has the ball the other teammates are looking for good position or ways to get the ball handler in good position and make sure we get good looks.”
Harris didn’t stop there; he blocked a shot on the Loggers next drive, which gave Linfield the ball back. With under a minute to play in the game, it was the big man who found himself in the right position both offensively and defensively.
The Loggers took the ball back and quickly got down the floor. After a Puget Sound timeout, their play was to get Holmes an open look at a three, and he got one at the top of the key, but the ball rimmed in and out and into the hands of Batiuk who was fouled with three seconds left, and Batiuk sealed the game with two made free throws.
For coaches and players, the win was much needed with the Wildcats embarking on a long, seven game road trip.
Linfield lost the first game of the road trip 69-53 Saturday at Pacific. It plays at 8 p.m. Friday at Whitman.