THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Despite St. Katherine's bus being stuck in traffic and causing a 30 minute delay to start the game, Cal Lutheran showed no signs of slowing down as it outlasted the Firebirds 78-76 Wednesday night inside of Gilbert Arena. The Kingsmen led by as many as six with four minutes to go left in the game but needed two deflections from Collin Knudsen in the final seconds to hold off the St. Katherine rally.
Cal Lutheran never trailed in the second half and led 76-72 with a little under three minutes to play but St. Katherine would storm back scoring after holding the Kingsmen to just one basket over the final 2:45. The Firebirds cut the lead to two after Diante Miller made a lay-up but Coltrane Powdrill countered with an off-balance jumper from the baseline and put CLU back up by four at 78-74. However, on the following possession, St Katherine again cut the lead to two after Steve Merrill scored another lay-up. The Kingsmen then missed on the other end, giving the Firebirds a chance to take the lead with 38 seconds to play in the game.
Following a timeout, Johnathon Wood missed a three-pointer and Knudsen had a chance at the loose ball rebound but Wade Shugrue came up with it and called timeout with five seconds left to play.
Undeterred by the missed chance on the rebound, Kundsen came up with the defensive plays of the night when he deflected two different passes on St. Katherine's final chances to thwart the comeback and give CLU the victory.
The first half was plagued with fouls as the teams combined to shoot 44 free-throws. Trailing 8-6 midway through the first half, Cal Lutheran went on a 12-4 run over the next four minutes to take the lead at 18-14 with 11:20 left to play before intermission. The run was kick-started by Steven Davis who intercepted a Firebirds' pass at mid-court and raced down before laying it in for the fast-break bucket. Michael Palmer would score four more points and the run was capped by a Jeremy Sulker-Hall turn-around jumper.
The Kingsmen would lead by as many as seven before Arik Smith found Sulker-Hall in the paint for a basket with four seconds left and gave CLU the halftime lead at 46-37.
After being held to just two points in the first half, the Kingsmen's leading scorer Coltrane Powdrill poured in team-high 15 points. Sulker-Hall was second with 13 points while Smith chipped in with 12. Guy Lynott nearly had a double-double, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds. Sulker-Hall and Corey Quintana each hauled six rebounds to lead the Kingsmen on the glass.
In addition to the two deflections, Knudsen finished with seven points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The Firebirds were led by Alex Perez's game-high 23 points while Wood tacked on 13.
With the loss, St Katherine falls to 1-7 on the year.
Cal Lutheran (5-1) is off to its best start in five years following the victory.
The Kingsmen will be back in action this weekend as a part of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Classic when they tip-off against Illinois Tech on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 1:00pm. The game will be played at Braun Gym on the campus of Caltech.