This past Saturday, the Portland Pilots saw their season end in Las Vegas at the hands of the Loyola Marymount Lions as they lost in the first round of the West Coast Conference Tournament 78-72.
The Pilots’ season ends in a disappointing fashion, finishing with a 10-22 record as well as losing seven games in a row.
The Pilots saw some great individual performances from some young players, including freshmen Marcus Shaver Jr. and Tahirou Diabate, who finished with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Redshirt sophomore Josh McSwiggan also had a solid scoring night, putting in 16 points. Despite these solid performances, the Pilots could not overcome the Lions, who they had swept in the regular season.
Portland got off to a hot start against the Lions, seemingly making every shot it took to jump out to a big 22-7 lead early on. The Pilots also produced a litany of impressive plays, including a pair of three-pointers from Josh McSwiggan and Malcolm Porter as well as an impressive fastbreak dunk from McSwiggan.
The Pilots shot remarkably well in the first half, connecting on almost 71 percent of their shots, including going 6-7 from beyond the arc. Despite this, the PIlots still only led by four points after one, leading against LMU 42-38. Marcus Shaver Jr. and Josh McSwiggan led the Pilots in scoring after one half, with 13 and 11 points respectively.
After shooting exceptionally great in the first half, the Pilots struggled out the gate in the second. The slow start allowed LMU to take the lead from the Pilots for the first time in the game. Portland failed to score for over five minutes in the beginning of the second, falling behind 47-56 until Terry Porter called timeout.
While the team as a whole struggled in the beginning of the second, freshman big man Tahirou Diabate excelled. After putting up only five points in the first half, he put up a solid nine in just the first 10 minutes of the second. His effort helped keep the Pilots in the game in the second half, with PIlots only trailing 61-58 with 8:51 left in the game. But the hole they dug themselves into proved to be tough to climb out of, and with three minutes left found themselves trailing 68-62.
The Pilots found some life towards the end of the game with a nice baseline dunk from McSwiggan followed by a quick three from D’Marquese Tyson. However, an intentional foul call against Portland with a little under a minute sent LMU to the line with two free throws and possession, killing the momentum for the Pilots. A pair of last second buckets weren’t enough to keep the Pilots in it, and despite missing a significant chunk of their free throws towards the end, the Lions were able to end Portland’s season.
Despite another tough year for head coach Terry Porter and the Pilots, there are some slivers of hope. Portland is the youngest team in the WCC and one of the youngest in the country. All the young players showed flashes of ability throughout the year, especially players like Marcus Shaver Jr. and Tahirou Diabate, with the former even garnering all-WCC honors. This season might not have been successful, but the team did make strides as the year progressed. As long as the team continues to make those strides, they can become a legitimately good team in the WCC. However, as this year shows, they still have some work to do before they’re truly ready to contend. And as of now, all Portland can do is trust the process and look to the future.