PORTLAND, Ore. -- Fighting tears, Lewis & Clark head coach Dinari Foreman conveyed his pride for his four seniors prior to the Pioneers' 60-56 loss to the Pacific Boxers on Saturday night at Pamplin Sports Center.
The loss was a major blow to the Pios slim hopes of making the Northwest Conference postseason tournament. Lewis & Clark (9-14; 6-8 NWC) will have to win two road games against the top pair in the conference next weekend - and get some help - to qualify as one of the top four teams in the standings.
Still, Foreman complimented his senior group for leading the Pioneers to a chance at the postseason in the first place.
"These three seniors, and then one addition who is a senior now, Markel Leonard, they've allowed us to be on the basketball court and to always be playing the last weekends meaning something," said Foreman, who is in his sixth season as head coach. "Just like this week, we're playing for something big. They've allowed us to be in a position to do great things at the end of the season."
Leonard joined the team as a transfer junior before the start of last season.
Jones was the only player to score in double figures on Saturday night, finishing with 11 points. He made a 3-pointer with 13:51 left in the second half and a jumper two possessions later to pull the Pioneers even. Nico Bricker's layup, two of his eight bench points, moved the Pioneers to their first lead, 42-40, with 11:29 to go. Another three by Jones and a layup by Andrew Vickers gave Lewis & Clark two additional two-point leads, but K.C. Harrison's 3-pointer put Pacific (10-12; 4-10 NWC) back ahead with 8:10 remaining.
Lewis & Clark tied once more, 55-55, on Roberson's three with 1:42 to go, but the Boxers closed out the victory on Harrison's four free throws.
Roberson and Leonard, who are both near 12 points per game this season, finished with nine points each. Coombe made his first start of the season, played 28 minutes and had five points. Coming into Friday's game, Vickers had scored at least 19 points in his prior three games. He finished with eight points as the other starter to the four seniors.
Foreman emphasized the seniors' expected impact on the rest of the team, which features six underclassmen who have played in at least 17 games this season.
"These four guys have a cumulative GPA of 3.12 as a senior group. That is what we strive here for. For all these young dudes, right here," said Foreman, gesturing to the bench where the rest of the team sat while the seniors were on the court receiving their recognition before the game.
The Northwest Conference is responsible for specific scenarios for the postseason tournament. Likely, Lewis & Clark would need to beat undefeated and the nation's second-ranked team, Whitman, and the NWC's second-place team, Whitworth, on the road next weekend, have conference travel partner George Fox do the opposite and see Linfield lose at Pacific Lutheran and two-win Willamette in order to make the four-team tournament.
If Lewis & Clark misses, it will be only the second time in the last nine years that that has happened. Under Foreman, the Pios have played in four NWC tournaments, including the 2015 championship game, a 69-58 loss to the current 10-time defending champion Whitworth.
Other Northwest Conference Scores - Saturday
Whitworth 69, Puget Sound 62
Whitman 87, Pacific Lutheran 58
Willamette 86, George Fox 77