|Sam Omondi took off from the free throw line|
KENNEWICK - The EdCC men's basketball defeated North rivals Peninsula 69-57 in a NWAC semifinal game Monday night in the Toyota Center. With the win the No. 1-ranked Tritons advance to Tuesday's 8 p.m. title game -- the second finals appearance for Kyle Gray's squad in three years.
EdCC will face #3 Clark College in the NWAC championship game. The Penguins (24-6) defeated Green River 55-41 in the day's other semifinal.
Monday's margin of victory was 12 points but it wasn't easy and it wasn't always pretty. Edmonds (27-5), entered the second half with a 5-point lead but failed to score for nearly five minutes in the second. The Pirates eventually went up by seven points while the EdCC offense scuffled.
Triton guard Charlie Smith sank a three to stop the bleeding, with Sunday's hero Ian Tevis following with a jumper to cut the deficit to two. Blake Fernandez scored his first points of the game on back-to-back possessions after a couple of buckets by PC and the EdCC offense finally started to gain momentum.
Tevis made a field goal at 8:44 to give EdCC a 49-48 advantage. The Pirates would retake the lead at 4:48 but a Zach Pederson bucket evened the score at 57-57. That basket started a 14-0 run that put the game away for Edmonds as PC would not record another point in the semifinal tilt.
"It was a tremendous defensive performance as a team," said Gray. "We held their two main scorers to single digits and our defense held on long enough for our offense to wake up and hit some clutch shots."
Edmonds started the contest strong thanks to a pair of treys by Devin Stoen. It looked early on that the Tritons would go up by double-figures. The Pirates rebounded, however, and eventually took the lead. EdCC would go into the half up by five. A big play in the opening half was a rebound and an and one by sub Umut Akkepenek.
Pederson led EdCC with 12 points and 14 boards with Stoen and Smith each with 11 points. Tevis added 8 points and Fernandez had 7 points and 5 assists in the win.
Chris Reis and Jal Dang each had 11 points for Peninsula. The Pirates (16-13) will play Green River in the 3rd-place game at 2 p.m.
Edmonds reached the title game in 2012, only to lose to Chemeketa. The lone championship for EdCC came in 1985.