The Clark College men’s basketball team knew they were in for a tough quarterfinal at the NWAACC Tournament.
Skagit Valley of Mount Vernon lived up to the billing.
The Cardinals held off top-ranked Clark 75-73 on Sunday at Kennewick to halt the Penguins’ 23-game win streak and dash Clark’s hopes of an NWAACC title.
Clark (25-2) is left to play for fifth place.
“We have to do our best to flush this and be ready to play (Monday),” Clark coach Alex Kirk said of the loss. “It hurts. We came in here thinking championship, but now we have to pick it back up. We want to end the season on a two-game winning streak.”
The Penguins had a strong first half. They made 47 percent of their shots and led by as much as 10 points at 32-22. By halftime they led 46-38.
The second half tightened up for both squads as there were nine lead changes over the final 15 minutes.
Clark’s biggest lead was six at 63-57 with 9:31 to play.
Skagit Valley (20-9) saw its biggest lead at the end, up three, 74-71, with 28 seconds remaining.
It was a wild last minute.
Clark took a 69-68 lead on Kyle Thurston’s 3-pointer.
An exchange of free throws had Clark in front 71-69 with 46 seconds to go.
The Cardinals took the lead at 72-71 on Greg Cox’s 3-pointer and free throws by Elijah Smith bumped the advantage to 74-71 with 28 seconds remaining.
Clark cut the lead to one as Collin Spickerman went down the lane for a dunk following a missed shot.
Clark was forced to foul on the inbounds, and Smith made both free throws for a 75-73 advantage.
On Clark’s final possession, the Penguins had a good look at a winning 3-pointer but the ball bounced off the rim and a subsequent tip-in attempt failed as the horn sounded.
“All the credit to Skagit Valley,” Kirk said. “They made great plays and hung really tough. They just made one or two more plays then we did.”
Spickerman scored a game-high 21 points and had 11 rebounds.
Sean Price had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, and Kyle Thurston had 13 points and nine assists.
Cox led Skagit Valley with 17 points. (Click here for complete boxscore)
Clark will next play Bellevue at 4 p.m. Monday in the fifth-place semifinal at Kennewick.