Penguins Fall to Whatcom in Final Four

The Penguins huddle before the game The Penguins looked to repeat as NWAC champions but saw that dream come to an end with a loss to the Whatcom Orcas. They will face Big Bend for the third place trophy Sunday at 3 p.m. (Photo credit: Ryan Robbins / the Independent)

Editor’s Note: The Independent staff is in Everett providing coverage throughout the NWAC tournament. Follow us on Twitter @IndyCCSports and continue checking our website for daily updates.

Clark men’s basketball team saw their hopes of a championship repeat end Saturday night after falling to Whatcom Community College, 74-58.

Instead, the Penguins will play Big Bend for the third place trophy Sunday at 3 p.m.

The sharpshooting duo of Whatcom’s Leif Anderson and Matthew Seymour combined for 36 points and eight of their 12 three-pointers. The Orcas worked from the outside in, shooting from beyond the arc and using the efforts of their 7-foot center.

Clark’s Aubrey Stevens collides with two defenders on a layup

Clark’s Aubrey Stevens gets swallowed up by Matthew Seymour (#13) and Taylor Bahr on his layup attempt. The big men of the Orcas were the driving force behind their defense. (Photo credit: Ryan Robbins / the Independent)

“Start to finish they were playing at a level that we weren’t,” said head coach Alex Kirk after the game. Kirk said their game plan was to tie up the Orcas towering squad through chaotic play using traps and fouls, but ultimately it proved to play to their demise.

Clark’s Devon Hawkins scored a season-high 24 points, followed by NWAC’s second-place scoring leader Bryan Berg with 10. The Orcas held the Penguins to a meager 29 percent on the night, while scoring 46 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.

“Some nights you’re the pigeon,” Kirk said. “Tonight we were the statue.”

Clark led at the whistle, but lost their momentum after less than ten minutes of play. Whatcom never let Clark get back on top.

The confidence that seemed to loom over Clark from last year’s success was brought lower and lower with each of their 43 misses on the night.

“With each miss, the basket seems smaller and smaller,” Kirk said.

Clark’s next opponent, Big Bend, lost to Spokane just before the Penguins took the court, 77-66. Big Bend beat the Highline in the quarterfinals, 73-65.

Live Game Coverage Follows

Final, 58-74 — The sharpshooting duo of Anderson and Seymour proved to be too much for Clark’s intrusive defense. Clark will now face Big Bend in a fight for third place in the NWAC.

Devon Hawkins finished with a season-high 24 points on the loss.

4:07 in the game — Hawkins takes it to the rim and makes the layup as Whatcom’s Casey Leek fouls out. Score: Clark 55 to Whatcom’s 65.

6:00 in the game — Clark’s energy sparked by Darrius Mathis’s defense and spot up outside shooting has brought the game back within.

Whatcom again is being harassed by a persistent full court press off the inbounds play after each point and dead ball. An offensive foul by 7-foot center on Hawkins continues the change in atmosphere.

10:00 in the game — Clark continues to fight the onslaught of 3-point shots taken by Seymour, now with 31-55 points.

Through a mixed variety of defenses brought by Clark, the “drive and dish” method played by Whatcom is proving their style of play that got them into the game.

At 15:00 Clark led by 23 points and looked exhausted. The Orcas brought a full court press that brought Clark to their bench, as Kirk quickly called a full timeout to stop the bleeding.

Clark then went on a run ignited by a slashing layup by Berg and deep 3-pointer sunk by Hawkins. Immediately Clark brought a full press as they seemed to catch their second wind. The Orcas went nearly 3 minutes without putting a point on the board.

Whatcom soon put an end to that run after a fade away jumper by Seymour, now with 18 points on the night. This extended the lead to 51-32. Anderson was not far behind with 16 points after his three in the beginning of the half.

Halftime and Clark trails, 26-39. This deficit comes from the scoring efforts of Leif Anderson and Matthew Seymour who both have 13 points. The Orcas have also been on fire from outside scoring eight 3-pointers, at 61.5 percent.

Clark has abandoned the press and has switched to a man-to-man defense to try and extinguish the hot hands of Anderson and Seymour. The NWAC second placed scoring leader, Bryan Berg, has been a non-issue for the Orcas.

Berg had 26 points on the win against the Yaks, but the Orca’s zone defense have snuffed Berg’s five field goal attempts limiting him to only six points at the half.

Clark is shooting 50 percent from outside, but only scoring 30 percent from the field, as compared to Whatcom’s 50 percent from the field.

4:23, Clark trails 23-34— the invasive defense brought by Clark’s pressing has rattled the Orcas as they have committed four turnovers. Clark’s offense however is struggling. Shots under the rim aren’t coming easy, and their touch from the outside has gone cold.

The Orca’s outside shooting continues to prove lethal as they have hit their last 3 for 5 from beyond the arc.

10:00 left in the first half — Whatcom looks to break their own mold by shooting from the outside in. The first five minutes were spent exchanging 3-point baskets with Clark’s Devon Hawkins.

Hawkins had a quiet night against the Yaks, scoring just eight points. Tonight he is Clark’s leading scorer, with nine points all from three-pointers.

The Orcas’ offensive strategy seems to be to take the outside shots and what they don’t make will be attempted to clean up by their big men down low. Clark does not seem to have a answer at the defensive end that will contest with the height of their looming bigs.

Clark had issues last night with their interior play, giving up eight offensive rebounds translating to second chance points on the night. Their opponents tonight dominated the game under the basket, collecting 18 offensive rebounds with help from their starting 7-foot center.

Clark takes to the court with 10 minutes before their semi-final match against the Whatcom Community College Orcas. The winner will face the Spokane Community College Sasquatch, who won their semifinal game against Big Bend’s Vikings, 77-66.

Tonight the Penguins will activate 6-foot-10 big man Miles Martin to combat the towering Orcas, who have five players over 6-foot-5. Martin did not play in the quarterfinals last night on Clark’s victory against the Yakima Valley Yaks, 65-57.

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