UPS carried a three-game losing streak heading into last weekend's action. They turned that trend around with two victories at home, one quite decisive and one a nail-biter.
The Loggers defeated Linfield 72-55 on Jan. 20. The Loggers did well beyond the arc in the first half, with forward Derek Jobe and guard Rex Holmes each nailing two three-pointers and guard Ryan Rogers and guard Edric Edberaure hitting one each. Forward Gabe Borboa got the crowd fired up with a two-handed dunk. Linfield guard Zach Anderson hit two treys near the end of the half to keep it close. UPS took a 41-30 lead into the locker room.
Early in the second half UPS forward Kaleb Shelton-Johnson hit a three-pointer. He followed that by stealing a pass and making a layup. Guard Julian Fernandez hit a trey to put UPS up 57-40.
Linfield's defense locked down UPS for a stretch, holding the Loggers scoreless for nearly eight minutes. But the Loggers had built enough of a lead that did not matter. Forward Anthony Gittens got the crowd excited by forcefully rejecting a Linfield shot.
Aggressive defense from UPS caused Linfield to turn the ball over 17 times.
Shelton led UPS with 18 points. Jobe had 14, making four of seven three-point attempts. Gittens led the Loggers in rebounds with seven.
Anderson led the Wildcats with 18 points, with Andrew Batiuk adding 13.
The Loggers hung on for a 76-74 victory over Lewis and Clark on Jan. 21. Gittens was dominant around the basket in the first half, blocking four shots. He fired up the crowd with a slam dunk and followed it by taking a pass and making a sweet lay-up. He grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the first half.
Shelton-Johnson extended the Logger lead to 35-22 with a three-pointer. UPS led 46-35 at halftime.
The Loggers held the Pioneers for more than 11 minutes without a field goal in the second half. Then L&C made it an interesting contest, going on a 21-7 run. Guard P.J. Taylor hit a trey to cut the Logger lead to 74-72. Guard Marcus Wells put L&C in position to tie when he stole a pass. He shot and missed. A teammate grabbed the rebound but Taylor's shot missed the mark. Shelton-Johnson hit two free throws with six seconds left to seal the victory.
Shelton-Johnson scored 18 points for UPS (13-4, 5-3 NWC). "They are a good three-point team," he said of L&C. "In the first half they were not hitting their shots."
Logger fouls and Pioneer accuracy at the charity stripe allowed them to get back in the game, Shelton-Johnson noted. "Luckily we were able to pull it out."
"Amazing" is how he described Gittens' performance. "We center our offense on him because he is so dominant. He can get so many offensive rebounds because he is so tall."
The Loggers return to action with home games against Willamette on Jan. 27 and Pacific on Jan. 28. Both start at 8 p.m.