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The Easterner

The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

A career-high performance powers Eagles to overtime victory

Katherine Kneafsey
Redshirt freshman forward LeJuan Watts had a career-high 21 points, with many coming at the perfect time for the Eagles.

Two days after clinching the Big Sky regular season title on Feb. 29, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team brought their winning streak to three games by defeating the Montana State Bobcats in a high-scoring overtime battle.

The back-to-back regular season conference champions fell behind early, as Montana State took a quick 7-2 lead. However, at the midway point of the first half, the Eagles had jumped in front of the Bobcats 15-14, led by four points each from senior guard Jake Kyman and junior forward Dane Erikstrup.

Eastern Washington and Montana State continued to trade the lead for the majority of the remainder of the half, but a late 6-0 run sparked by five points from MSU junior forward Brian Goracke, whose 13.6 points per game rank ninth in the Big Sky, gave the Bobcats a 36-31 edge at halftime. 

In the first half, the Eagles took a very team-oriented approach to scoring, with multiple players getting on the board. Junior forward Cedric Coward led the team with seven first-half points. Kyman had five, while Erikstrup and redshirt freshman forward LeJuan Watts each had four.

The second half was much more high-scoring than the first, with each team clearing 50 points in the period. The Eagles tied the game in under a minute with a 5-0 run, as junior forward Ethan Price made a pair of free throws and senior guard Ellis Magnuson made a three-pointer. Magnusson is primarily known as a passer but scored nine points for the EWU, his second-highest mark of the season.

The game remained extremely close heading into the closing minutes. With just over two minutes to go, Coward hit a three to give Eastern Washington the lead, but Goracke responded with three free throws to match. Price then tied the game with a dunk, but again the Bobcats matched, as senior forward John Olmsted found himself open for a dunk of his own. 


Junior forward Ethan Price dishes a pass to a shooter in the corner. (Katherine Kneafsey)


Before Saturday, Olmsted averaged just 5.6 minutes per game for Montana State. However, MSU’s sophomore forward Brandon Walker, who is tenth in the Big Sky in points per game, was ejected in the first half after scoring seven points in ten minutes. Olmsted made the most of his opportunity, putting up 15 points on 7-8 shooting in a career-high 29 minutes.

After Olmsted’s dunk, the Eagles were down 86-84. Casey Jones attempted a layup to tie the game but was blocked by junior forward Sam Lecholat. However, Coward was able to grab the rebound, and he found Watts for a three-pointer to take the lead. Watts scored again with 24 seconds remaining, this time on a layup, to extend the EWU lead to three points.

Montana State’s senior guard Eddie Turner II, who led all players with 24 points, was not ready for the game to end. With just eight seconds left, he hit a three to send the game into overtime, as Kyman’s three-point attempt with three seconds on the clock was no good.

MSU opened overtime with the first bucket, as Turner II made another three. The Eagles answered with an 8-0 run, during which Watts scored another four points. The forward finished the night with a career-high 21 points, with 11 of them coming with under two minutes remaining in regulation or in overtime. 

After Price made three free throws with 34 seconds left, Eastern Washington held a 102-95 lead. However, a dunk from Goracke and a layup from senior guard Robert Ford III closed the gap to three points. Watts made another layup, but Ford III quickly answered with a three to make it a two-point game with 13 seconds remaining. 

From there, the Eagles were able to make their free throws and come away with a 108-104 victory. Coward led the team with 23 points and Kyman added 18 as well. Junior forward Casey Jones drew 12 free throw attempts, and scored 16 points.

The Eagles play their first game of the Big Sky Men’s Basketball Championship on Sunday, March 10, where they are the highest seed. They will look to win their first postseason conference championship under head coach David Riley. 

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About the Contributors
Nic Cunningham, Reporter
Katherine Kneafsey, Photographer

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