The Northern Arizona men’s basketball team will play its final game of the season tonight with an offensive weapon they haven’t had on the floor in five years.
Tonight’s line-up against Portland State will include the school’s new all-time scoring leader.
The Lumberjacks’ senior guard from Los Angeles, Cameron Jones, took over the top spot at the 9:05 mark in the last game against Northern Colorado when he hit a jump shot from 18 feet out.
With that shot, Jones eclipsed the old mark of 1,550 career points, set by Kelly Golob in 2006. He finished the game with 24 points – exactly what he has been averaging for the past five games – to reach 1,563.
The other half of the explosive backcourt tandem, sophomore Gabe Rogers, had a game-high 27 points. But it wasn’t enough to avoid the 72-71 last-second loss.
Jones put the Jacks up by five at 67-62, but the Bears came back to re-take the lead. Sophomore guard Stallon Saldivar hit a pair of free throws to bring the Jacks within one at 72-71. NAU had a final shot to win it, but Jones couldn’t connect on a mid-court three-point attempt with 5.3 second left.
That game was in a packed gym in Greeley, Colo., and the 2,755 shrieking fans helped Northern Colorado squeeze out the win. But tonight, the Jacks are at home where they are on a five-game roll and are 10-1 this season.
A win tonight at home would tie this squad with the 1998-99 team for second place in best home records.
And it should also mark the fall of the school’s single-season points record. Jones needs just two points to overtake the previous record of 561 set in 2007-08.
If Portland ((13-15, 5-10) wants to pull off an upset tonight, it will have to contain one of the best shooting teams in the country. NAU (17-11, 8-7) ranks first in the country in 3-pt. field-goal percentage and third in overall field goal percentage. The Jacks are the only team in Division I to rank among the top 10 leaders in both categories.
Shane Johannsen, a senior forward from Valley Christian High School in Chandler, owns the best field-goal percentage in the nation at 73.4 percent.
Portland State may catch the Jacks looking past this game, since they have earned their way to the Big Sky Tournament and just clinched the No. 4 seed. They will play the No. 5 seed, either Montana State or Eastern Washington, Sunday at home in a quarterfinal game at the Rolle Activity Center.
But tonight is also Senior Night. And the team’s most illustrious seniors, Jones and Johannsen, likely won’t let that happen.
It should be lights-out shooting for this regular-season finale.