TACOMA, Wash. -- Leading by 10 points with 4:02 to go, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers couldn't close out the No. 1 seed Puget Sound Loggers in a 61-58 loss in the Northwest Conference tournament semifinals at Memorial Fieldhouse on Thursday night.
The No. 6 Loggers outscored Lewis & Clark, 15-2, over the final minutes to steal the victory in what would have been only the second loss of the season for Puget Sound.
Instead, senior Ayisat Afolabi, who scored a career-high 30 points in her final game, and the Pioneers rebound year ended in heart-breaking fashion. Afolabi finished with a season-high 20 rebounds after 14 in the first half. The All-NWC First-Team selection finished 12 of 24 from the field and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.
"It was an incredible basketball game. The team fought so hard," said first-year head coach Pamela Findlay. "We led for most of the game, but they were able to put together a fourth quarter run by working it into the low post. We played with so much heart, especially our three seniors."
Entering the game as the nation's best 3-point shooter, senior Sarah Anderson was blanketed defensively by Puget Sound's Caitlin Malvar and didn't get a try at a game-tying three with 8.7 seconds left on the clock. Instead, Sara Hogman's 3-pointer from the left wing was off the mark at the buzzer.
Jamie Lange, who set a new career-high with 29 points, scored the go-ahead basket with 10 seconds remaining on Puget Sound's fourth attempt of its final possession. She was fouled and made the free throw to give the Loggers a three-point lead.
Although second-chance opportunities at the end hurt Lewis & Clark, the Pios used 19 offensive rebounds that led to scores to build a lead of 13 in the late third quarter, helping them recover from a slow start offensively. The Pioneers didn't score for the game's first 4:30, but then went on a 20-2 run for nearly the rest of the half to lead 26-20 at halftime.
Miyah Leith, the Pios' other All-NWC selection, had seven points, as did Hogman. The two combined to shoot 5 of 17, and as a team, Lewis & Clark was 22 percent from the floor without Afolabi's 50 percent performance. Lewis & Clark finished 31 percent from the field and 71 percent from the free-throw line.
Lewis & Clark ends the year 16-10 overall to close out a season that followed two years that produced a total of 11 wins.
"The season as a whole was special," said Findlay. "I inherited an amazing group, and we became a family. It was so fun to see them believe in themselves and play hard for their teammates. They brought a competitive fire to practice and games every single day. I wish this season never had to end."
In Saturday's conference championship, Puget Sound (25-1) will host Whitman, which beat George Fox, 78-71, in the other semifinal.