There’s an old sports adage that says, “you can’t beat the same team 3 times in a season”. So, after beating Highline Community College three times in 2013-14 (once in the pre-season and twice in the regular season), the Raiders squared off against the Thunderbirds for a fourth time on Monday night, in the semi-finals of the NWAACC Championships — with a trip to the tournament title game on the line — and hoping to prove the adage wrong.
The Raiders and T-Birds were evenly matched throughout most of the first half, with Pierce finally pulling out to a 12 point advantage at halftime. David Baze came out of the break determined to help the Raiders to a shot of the title game on Tuesday, scoring 12 of the team’s first 20 points, and extending the lead to 16, at 59-43. However, Highline was unwilling to throw in the towel, and fought back to within 3 points with under 2 minutes to go in the contest. That’s when Gary Jacobs and Isaac Barsh helped close things out for the Raiders, to record the 77-71 victory, and putting Pierce back in the championship game for the second time in 5 seasons — their last appearance was in 2010.
Barsh led another balanced Raiders attack with 18 points, and pulled down 9 rebounds. Chris Parker followed with 17 points, going 5 of 12 from 3-point range. David Baze, whose early second half outburst kept the Raiders in the game, finished with 15 points. Devin Matthews tossed in 11 points, grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, and handed out 7 assists.
The Raiders will face the tournament’s Cinderella story in the championship game Tuesday night — the Portland Panthers. This is the Panthers’ first-ever playoff appearance, and both teams have their sights set on taking home the big prize. Portland finished their regular season at 10-4 (19-9 overall), and in 3-way tie for the Southern Division title. The Raiders took second in the West with a 13-3 record (20-6 overall). Game time Tuesday is at 8:00 p.m. Raider fans can watch the game on the internet at, www.nwaacc.org