While the Tigers ran out to an early 8-2 lead behind senior Logan Galbraith’s six points, Eastern answered with an 11-0 run to take a 13-8 lead. But NW’s Blaine Brutus knocked down a 3-pointer late to narrow it to 13-11 at the first stop.
The Tigers used a 7-0 run to start the second quarter and take the lead for good. They led 20-14 with 3:09 left in the half, but Eastern battled back to make it 21-20 before Jacob Wagner nailed two charity shots with 3.5 seconds left to put NW up 23-20 at intermission.
The third quarter was decisive. Tiger senior Graham Ortmann got things started with a triple, and Wagner followed with a hoop-and-harm to make it 29-20. Comet sophomore Jacob Kinder made two foul shots at the 5:29 mark, and Eastern closed to within six at 31-25 on Braden Gibson’s trey with 3:11 left in the third. But that was as close at the Comets would get. The Tigers got another late triple by Brutus to lead 37-27 heading to the fourth quarter.
After Gibson hit a free throw, Galbraith answered with a bucket off a Wagner assist to make it 39-28 with 6:35 to play. From there, the Tigers made 16 of 22 from the charity stripe to hang on for the win.
Gish said, “Something we have really emphasized is working from the free throw line and understanding that you’re 15 feet away with nobody in your face. It’s extremely important whether it’s the first quarter or the fourth quarter with the game on the line that you hit your free throws.”
In addition to their success shooting freebies, the Tigers made 12 of 26 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from behind the arc.
Galbraith paced NW with 15 points and Ortmann added 12. Eastern was led by Kinder’s 11 points and game-high eight boards.