RECAP: Denver Pioneers Pull Away Down the Stretch in 72-61 Win over Sacramento State

Daniel Amigo recorded hs third double-double of the season on Sunday, scoring 17 points and adding 10 rebounds in Denver's 72-61 win over Sacramento State. (Source: Ron Chenoy - USA Today Sports)
Daniel Amigo recorded his third double-double of the season on Sunday, scoring 17 points and adding 10 rebounds in Denver’s 72-61 win over Sacramento State. (Source: Ron Chenoy – USA Today Sports)

Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, the Eastern Washington Eagles played host to the EWU Classic. Joining the Eagles in Cheney, WA were the Denver PioneersSacramento State Hornets, and the San Francisco Dons.

Saturday’s action saw the Eagles take down the Pioneers, 85-80, and the Dons push their record to a perfect 4-0 on the year with a 77-59 win over the Hornets,

On Sunday, the Eagles and Dons square off in the night cap of the event, while the Pioneers and Hornets did battle as both teams looked to head home with a 1-1 record in the event.

The first half was all about the Hornets, as they opened up a 16-point lead with under six minutes to play in the opening half. Denver cut the lead down to six at halftime, and the momentum was squarely on their side.

Thanks to timely free throw shooting down the stretch, the Pioneers were able to overcome their slow start, and hold off Sacramento State down the stretch.

Denver fought their way back, and ended the EWU Classic with a 72-61 win over Sacramento State.

With 6:10 left to play in the opening half, Justin Strings grabbed a defensive rebound after a miss from Thomas Neff. On the ensuing possession for the Hornets, Strings would hit a three pointer to give Sacramento State the 27-11 lead.

Instead of rolling over and letting the Hornets control the game, Denver fought their way back and gave themselves a huge momentum boost heading into halftime.

Neff connected on a three pointer with 23 seconds left, and Bradley George hit a jumper at the buzzer to cut Denver’s deficit to 31-25 after the first half.

In the second half, it didn’t take long for Denver to erase the entire 16-point deficit they faced in the later stages of the first half. A 12-4 run to start the second half, capped off by a jumper from C.J. Bobbitt, gave the Pioneers a slim 37-35 lead.

That started some back-and-forth action that spanned over 11 minutes. Both teams would take turns holding two-point leads, with the Hornets stretching their lead to as many as four. Neither team was able to pull away from the other as the clock ticked down.

With 3:05 to play in the game, Strings hit one of two free throws for the Hornets to tie the game at 61-all. On the next possession, Daniel Amigo hit a jumper to give the Pioneers a 63-61 lead, one that they would hold onto for the rest of the game.

Strings’ free throw was the last point that Sacramento State would score in the game.

Jake Pemberton would connect on a three pointer with under two minutes to play to give Denver a 68-61 lead, and two free throws from both Joe Rosga and Pemberton in the closing minute provided extra padding for good measure.

Despite being down by 16 points in the first half, Denver continued to fight, and were rewarded with the 72-61 win over Sacramento State to close out the EWU Classic.

Daniel Amigo and Jake Pemberton led the way for the Pioneers on Sunday afternoon. Amigo recorded his third double-double of the year, scoring 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Pemberton added 17 points of his own in the win.

Thomas Neff added 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.

Marcus Graves led the way for the Hornets, scoring a team-high 16 points, on 6-of-11 shooting, while adding 4 rebounds. Justin Strings (13 points) and Nick Hornsby (10 points) also scored in double figures in a losing effort.

As a team, the Hornets finished the game just 2-of-11 (18.2%) from three point range.

The win ended a mini two-game losing streak for the Denver Pioneers (2-3, 0-0). They will go for their second straight win on Wednesday night, when they head to Laramie, WY for a date against the Wyoming Cowboys.

With the loss, the Sacramento State Hornets (1-5, 0-0) have lost three straight. All five of their losses have come against Division I opponents, while their lone win came against the NAIA’s Antelope Valley. The Hornets will try for their second win on Thursday, when they open the month of December against the Pacific Tigers.

– T. Bennett