In the span of six days, the Peninsula Pirate men went from division contenders to likely champions, then saw it all nearly lost in the season's finally game.
But after posting a 90-86 overtime win at Everett Saturday night, the Pirates are the NWAACC North Division champions and head to the NWAACC tournament in Kennewick this week with a No. 1 seed and legitimate shot at the overall title.
But it wasn't easy. Peninsula (13-3 in conference play, 22-7 overall) needed a pair of two-point wins against division leaders Feb. 18 and Feb. 20, and then needed to quash an upstart Edmonds team on the road Feb. 23.
The host Tritons hit a desperation shot to tie the game at 76-all and force overtime, but Peninsula managed to outscore Edmonds 14-10 in the final period to clinch the game and the division.
With three other teams tied with 12-4 conference marks, a loss could have sent Peninsula as low a fourth seed thanks to tiebreakers. But guards Dominick _Lozano (23 points) and Jesse Bean (20 points) and post Clay Greenland (26 points, 14 rebounds) made sure the Pirates came away with what they were looking for - namely, a top seed into Thursday's tournament opener against Treasure Valley (6-8 in conference, 9-17 overall), the No. 4 seed from the East Division.
Ernie Grimes added seven points, six rebounds and five assists in the win.
Hassan Finch, Jr. led the Tritons with 22 points.
For coach Peter Stewart, it's the third division crown in six years.
Lozano jumper helps
P.C. climb to division lead
The heroics continue.
Lozano drained a 12-foot jump shot from the baseline with less than a second remaining to lift the Peninsula College Pirates to a 92-90 win against Everett Feb. 20.
The win, coupled with a Whatcom defeat, left the Pirates in sole possession of first place in the North with one game to go.
Everett surged in the first half to a 16-point advantage before settling for a 51-39 halftime lead. But the Pirates blitzed Everett for a 21-0 run to start the second half, shutting out the Trojans for seven minutes.
After Everett rallied back to take an 84-83 lead, the teams traded blows until the Trojans turned the ball over with seven seconds left. Peninsula's Grimes found Lozano on the baseline and the Alaskan native hit the jumper with 0.9 seconds on the clock. Everett's last-second shot fell short of its mark.
Lozano led the Pirates with 21 points while Greenland had 17 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Cody Smithson had 14 points while Grimes had 13 and Bean chipped in 10 points.
Peninsula takes down Whatcom
This guy is ready for prime time.
Lozano started Peninsula's week in grand style, driving through the Whatcom defense for a game-winning lay-up with seven seconds left, lifting the Pirates to a stunning 68-66 win against division-leading Whatcom Feb. 18.
"(Coach Stewart) just said, 'Get it in and we've got to go,'" Lozano recalled. "I saw an open lane and I took it."
After sitting for much of the first half with foul trouble, Lozano sank a three-pointer late and set up Jason Millon for what looked to be the first game-winning shot. Millon, who finished with six points, took a pass at the baseline and leaped over his Whatcom defender for a basket and 66-64 Peninsula lead with 15 seconds on the clock.
"I actually thought that they were going to call it the other way - I thought it was going to be a charge," Millon said.
But Millon was called for a foul after the shot went up, and Whatcom converted two free throws, setting up Lozano's drive that left Whatcom down two points with seven seconds on the clock.
"I wasn't worried so much about the time (left) as an offensive foul," coach Stewart said of Lozano's drive.
Whatcom post Ryan Christensen had a chance to tie with a few seconds left, but his eight-footer rimmed off and into the arms of Millon, who celebrated the big win with his teammates.
Christian Harris led the Pirates in scoring for the first time this season, gathering a dozen points.
"We just needed this win to focus on the postseason," Harris said. "I like to play in these games. I learned a lot last year, how the sophomores carry themselves and what they do. We try to carry on the tradition, as sophomores."
Whatcom held Lozano to 11 points and Greenland to 10. Freshman Pirate Cody Smithson added nine points and four steals.
The lead changed hands 15 times and was tied 17 times and the largest lead for either team was six.
"Obviously it's a big win," coach Stewart said. "It's a good college basketball game. We had everybody in foul trouble. We just couldn't get going. Just give the kids credit down the stretch; they didn't give up against a very good ball club."