The Trinity Western University Spartans gave themselves some early breathing room Friday.
But the host Thompson Rivers Wolf Pack clawed back before falling 83-75 in Canada West men's basketball action at the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops.
The Spartans took a 22-4 first quarter advantage, but the WolfPack chipped away at the lead throughout the game and eventually took its first lead of the night at 73-71 with 4:07 left in the fourth quarter.
But the Spartans, weren't going to let TRU spoil their effort as they finished the game with a 12-2 run that sealed the win.
The victory improved TWU to 9-9, which sees the Spartans at .500 for the first time all year.
The only team that can catch the Spartans for the fourth and final Pacific Division playoff position is the University of B.C., which sits four games back, at 5-12, with five games remaining.
The loss drops TRU to 6-13 and, with just three games left on its schedule, eliminates the WolfPack from playoff contention.
The Spartans had a balanced attack, in which five players hit double-digits in points. Tristan Smith led the way with 18 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists. Tonner Jackson added 17 points and five boards, Tyler Lintell had 15 points and four rebounds, Justin Bakuteka had 14 points and five rebounds and Mark Perrin had 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
For TRU, who had four players with double-digit points, it was Kevin Pribilsky with a team-high 18 points while Troy Grant added 16. Blaz Bozinovic had a game-high 10 rebounds.
"It was a good, gutsy effort from the guys tonight," Spartans' bench boss Scott Allen said, following the win. "We didn't do very well on the offensive boards, but we did handle their runs well. Each time they had a bit of a push, we responded well and the guys were structured and shared the ball well. Balanced scoring was one of the key things for us to get the win."
After taking its first lead of the night, TRU's advantage was short-lived. Lintell made a layup just over 30 seconds later to tie the game. From there, TWU never trailed. Then, after Jackson put up a jumper to give TWU a 75-73 lead, the game had a stretch that lasted 1:59 without a score from either team. Another layup from Lintell ended the offensive drought and gave TWU a 77-73 advantage. After the teams scored two points each, making it 79-75, the Spartans were four for four on free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
The Spartans are back on the court this weekend (Feb. 8-9) when they host UBC Okanagan at the Langley Events Centre.
The Spartans moved a step closer to securing a post season spot with an impressive 93-70 victory over the WolfPack Thursday night at the Tournament Capital Centre.
The Spartans, had five players in double digits in scoring.
TWU has gotten healthy at the right time. After injuries saw the Spartans stumble out of the gate with a 2-7 record, the Langley squad has nearly flipped the record having won six of their last eight games.
After leading by as many as 14 points, 35-21, the Spartans entered half time with a slim five point lead, 43-38.
After the break Thompson Rivers cut the Trinity Western lead to three points, 45-42, but from that point on the Spartans took control. Over the next 10 minutes TWU would outscore TRU 41-17 to take a 27 point, 86-59, lead into the final five minutes of the game.
"Shooting percentage was the difference in the game for us," Allen said. "Our tenacity was the difference on the glass in the second half. Some of the guys were hitting their shots. On some days those wouldn't go in; today they did. We had a lot assists in the second half as well."
Trinity Western Jackson with 21 points. Smith contributed 15 points, with Bakuteka adding 14 and Linttell scoring 10.