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Mens basketball takes advantage of golden opportunity

Meet the 2014-15 Green River mens basketball team.Meet the 2014-15 Green River mens basketball team.

Rarely does a team that doesn't control its own destiny get an opportunity like the Gators got on Monday night.

After suffering a loss to Highline on Feb. 25, the Gators were one game back from the last playoff spot, trailing both Lower Columbia and Pierce who were in a tie for fourth place. With one game left to play, the Gators needed a win and help just for a chance at a play-in game.

The Gators took care of Centralia 69-56 on Saturday, but had to wait until later that night to find out their fate; Lower Columbia (10-5) was taking on Grays Harbor (5-9), and Pierce (10-5) was going head-to-head with Tacoma (5-9).

The Gators weren't supposed to get their chance, but they did: Grays Harbor defeated Lower Columbia 78-77 and Tacoma defeated Pierce 86-74, forcing a three-way tie between all three schools.

Because Pierce was 3-1 against the Gators and Red Devils, they received an automatic bid to the NWAC Tournament as the #3 seed from the West. Green River got the opportunity to host Lower Columbia Monday night at 7 p.m. in a one-game playoff, winner to NWAC Championship tournament.

The first half couldn't have started any worse for the Gators as they fell to an 11-0 deficit within the first four minutes of play. The entire game seemed like an uphill battle for the Gators and getting into halftime trailing 36-27 seemed like a moral victory after the way things started.

The Gators have been a second-half team all year long and it was no different Monday night. They came out of the gate in the second half strong, forcing turnovers and scoring points from those turnovers. The Gators didn't get their first lead of the game until five minutes remained in the game, when they went up 56-54.

Both teams went back and forth in the final minutes until the Gators had a slim 62-60 lead with 27.3 seconds remaining. The stingy defense would force another turnover and that was all she wrote as Trevante Williams and Bernard Sanders knocked down free throws in the final seconds to seal a 67-60 victory for the Gators.

The Gators travel to Kennewick, Wash., for the NWAC Championship Tournament as the #4 seed from the West. They will take on Big Bend, the #1 seed from the East in the first round at 8 p.m. on Saturday.