Men: Clark wins first NWAC title in 20 yearsNWAC Championship Updates
Toyota Center, Kennewick, Wash.
Broadcasts | Mens Bracket | Womens Bracket | Tournament stats
8 p.m. Men -- Clark 78, Edmonds 59 [stats]
The Clark men had gotten close. They went to the title game in 1996 but lost, and came to the tournament with title hopes in 2012 but were upset in the first round.
In comes new head coach Alex Kirk, and in a short time, Kirk transformed the Penguins into what the league will remember as one of the more dominant defensive teams in recent memory.
They set tournament records for the best defensive half in league history, and broke a 45-year-old record for the largest margin of victory. And on Tuesday evening in front of a small but raucous crowd, the Penguins did something that hadn't been done in 20 years: Clark won the men's NWAC title with a 78-59 win over Edmonds.
For the Tritons, the title game wasn't unfamiliar territory. Edmonds had made the championship game but lost in 2013 to Chemeketa.
Clark scored first on a bucket from Darrius Mathis, but Edmonds responded with a vengeance. And really, for the first time in the tournament, the Penguins found themselves trailing as Edmonds jumped on top by six after five minutes of play in the first half, leading 11-5 on a three-pointer from Devin Stoen.
Clark rallied to take a one point lead on two occasions late in the half, but Edmonds went on a run of their own, scoring seven in a row to take a 38-30 lead. Still the Penguins weren't out of it. Rian Bassett scored six points in the final two minutes of the half, part of a big push to get Clark within 40-38 at the halftime break.
The momentum continued into the second half, as Mathis hit a three pointer to give Clark a 41-40 lead. Edmonds managed to tie the game at 44 with 17:02 remaining in the game, but the Penguins continued to turn up the pressure on defense.
Clark started to work the offensive boards as well and took advantage of Edmonds' mistakes to extend their lead to ten points with 11:41 remaining on a pair of free throws from Evan Garrison.
A few minutes later, on another bucket from Garrison, the Penguins capped their run to take a 66-49 lead with 7:26 left in the game, having held the Tritons scoreless for the better part of five full minutes.
Edmonds finally broke their scoreless streak with a bucket from Destine Kawaka, but Clark's defense was too much to handle. Even when a free throw from Zach Pederson cut the lead back down to 14 at 66-53, there still wasn't much light at the end of the tunnel. Hayden Hall was fouled in the act of shooting a three and went to the line for the hat trick, restoring the Penguins' 17-point advantage with just over five minutes to play.
By the time there was less than a minute to play, it seemed as though the Tritons' basket was closed for the evening. The starters sat down with 1:08 to play, having missed their last nine shots. The move brought the Clark fans to their feet as the men in black neared their first title in two decades.
A minute later, the Penguins threw the ball skyward and lept from the bench to celebrate as one at center court, champions.
Mathis, who was jeered at for most of the evening by the opposing fans, who would yell, "Daaaarious!" finished with a game-high 18 points in the win. Garrison finished with 15 points, and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
2015 NWAC Mens All-Tournament Team
Evan Garrison Clark
Destine Kawaka Edmonds
Derek Brown, Jr Everett
Damon Cikanek Green River
Beruhz Duce Nazmazi Lane
Zach Pederson Edmonds
Orlando Vance Clark
Tre Benton Pierce
Bryan Berg Clark
Tre Clark Lane
Dom Holub Bellevue
Charlie Smith - Edmonds