LACEY — With a big Morton cheering section tucked away near the Central Washington bench at Marcus Pavilion, the traveling contingent from Lewis County was treated to a nail-biting Wildcat win Thursday night against No. 21 Saint Martin’s, featuring plenty of big-time Matt Poquette plays down the stretch to help seal the win.
The Wildcats, holding on to the final seed into the conference tournament for dear life, took down a ranked Saints squad on the road, thanks in large part to Poquette’s efforts, once again.
Those Morton fans saw familiar double teams and attention that Poquette drew in his days at Morton-White Pass, where the former Chronicle All-Area MVP and 2B state champion previously had to find ways to score regardless of double teams as a high schooler.
As a senior at Central, Poquette's growth as a distributor and screener helped the Wildcats pull off the upset Thursday night in front of a raucous crowd.
Well, not quite as raucous as Morton.
“It was good to see a lot of friends and family and great to have them come and support me,” Poquette said. “It definitely was a little less rowdy than in Morton, though.”
The senior scored 15 points, even through the double teams, had the game-sealing steal, and hauled in six rebounds. His teammate, Camron McNeil, made what turned out to be the game-winner on an isolation play with seconds remaining with the game tied, en route to a team-high 25 points.
It was a huge win for the Wildcats, who could climb all the way into the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament with a win in their regular season finale on Saturday, and was a showcase for how much Poquette has grown in his time in Ellensburg.
“I have to go into each game and try to learn how they’re going to defend me and how we can attack that,” Poquette said. “Whether it's me getting to my spots or me getting attention off other guys and opening them up. It’s been a big adjustment for me this year.”
Even in year four at the college level, Poquette is seeing new looks thrown his way. Though it took a few years to draw the same level of attention he got in high school, he’s gotten used to seeing doubles in college for the past year and a half or so.
“Each team does it differently,” he said. “Some teams come from the baseline and others come from the passer, I’ve gotten a lot of looks that I haven’t seen in college yet. Now that I’m seeing them, it’s been an adjustment trying to play against them.”
And though the Wildcats’ haven’t necessarily had the season they envisioned, Poquette’s been a part of plenty of squads over the years that have made runs in the postseason.
The senior — averaging just under 13 points a game and hauling in about 6.7 boards per contest — has been instrumental in a late run to potentially get back into the conference tournament, and was another big piece in the Wildcat win Thursday night.
“This is a big win for us,” Poquette said. “This win tonight and another big one on Saturday will hopefully seal our spot, and if we make it, anything can happen. We’re looking to make a run and play as well as we can every game.”