BB Men Rally Past Pios for Playoff Triumph
News Release Date:
Thursday, February 24
|Whitman students were out in full force for Tuesday's playoff victory.|
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The best Whitman College men's basketball season in more than two decades remains a work in progress after the Missionaries rallied in the second half to vanquish Lewis & Clark 79-76 in a first-round Northwest Conference playoff game Thursday night in a packed Sherwood Center.
Whitman, now 19-7 on the season, advances to play Whitworth Saturday night in Spokane where the stakes are the NWC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III national championship field.
Whitworth, improving to 25-1 on the season, earned its spot in Saturday's playoff finale by beating Pacific Lutheran 74-63 tonight in Spokane.
Whitman handed Whitworth its only loss of the season early last week in Sherwood Center. Whitworth won the first meeting between the two schools earlier in the season in Spokane.
Tonight's loss ended Lewis & Clark's season at 18-8 and was the final game on the bench for long-time Pioneer coach Bob Gaillard, who won more than 500 games in his 22 seasons.
This night belonged to the young Missionaries and third-year coach Eric Bridgeland, who moved within one game of the school's first-ever NCAA Division III national tournament appearance.
Down by 10 at halftime and by 12 early in the second half, Whitman shot back into the game in a hurry, using a 15-5 run marked by 3-point strikes from three different players to cut its deficit to 53-51 with 14 minutes left.
Brandon Shaw drained another Whitman three at the 9:31 mark to put the Missionaries on top 59-57, giving the home team its first lead of the night.
Lewis & Clark moved back in front 65-61, getting four free throws from Kelly Edwards and two hoops from Marcus Wells.
Momentum swung back in Whitman's favor on the strength of an 11-1 spurt that included two baskets by Ryan Gilkey and a Josh Duckworth 3-pointer. That gave Whitman a 72-66 cushion with 3:45 remaining.
Back came the Pioneers on a 7-0 run, regaining a one-point edge when Wells hit a three. After the Missionaries countered with three free throws, Wells struck again from beyond the arc, putting the visitors back in the lead at 76-75 with 50 seconds left.
Shaw, fouled on a drive to the hoop, made both free throws to return the lead for good to Whitman's side of the ledger.
Wells drove the lane at the other end for the Pioneers, but Whitman's David Michaels was there to swat the ball away.
Justin Artis rebounded, was fouled and made both charity tosses for a 79-76 Whitman cushion with just 13 seconds remaining. When the Pioneers misfired again on their next possession, Michaels collected the ball and was fouled with three seconds left on the clock.
Neither shot found the net, giving Lewis & Clark a final shot to tie. By the time Edwards launched a desperation heave from his own side of mid-court, however, the final buzzer had sounded.
As a team, Whitman shot 48.3 percent from the floor with four players scoring in double digits. Two others finished with nine points each.
Shaw combined 15 points with seven rebounds and five assists. Drew Raher just missed a double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds. Whitman also got 13 points and seven rebounds from Duckworth and 13 points from Michaels.
Gilkey and Artis each chipped in with nine points and six boards. Artis also handed out four assists.
Wells had a monster night for the Pioneers, scoring 37 points. Edwards was next with 26 points while PJ Taylor hustled his way to 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Kyle Meeuwsen with two points was the only player who scored for Lewis & Clark, which cooled off after a hot start to shoot 36.2 percent from the floor for the game.
Whitman attacked the boards en masse en route to a 51-31 rebounding bulge. The Pioneers compensated by making 17 of 19 free throws and taking advantage of 16 Missionary turnovers.
Wells and Edwards staged a shooting clinic to start the game, combining to hit 15 of 24 shots from the floor in the first half while scoring 38 of the 46 Pioneer points. Taylor had the other eight points for the visitors prior to the break.
Lewis & Clark connected on 13 of its first 18 field goal attempts to snare a 33-22 lead midway through the half. Two buckets by Wells made it 37-24 with 7:20 left in the half, but Whitman uncorked a 12-2 run to draw within 39-36 with three minutes remaining.
Michaels sparked the Missionary rally with six points while Artis added a nifty flying offensive rebound putback.
But with Wells scoring four more points and Edwards nailing a three, the Pioneers stretched their back to 10 points by the first-half buzzer.
Whitman finished the first half with a higher shooting percentage (15-28, 53.6 percent) than Lewis & Clark, which headed to the locker room at 47.4 percent (18-38). But the Pioneers won the turnover differential by a 9-2 margin and enjoyed a 5-2 edge from the 3-point stripe during the first 20 minutes.
|Coach Eric Bridgeland, Justin Artis (12), Peter Clark (34) lead the team in a salute their fans
after Tuesday's big playoff win in Sherwood Center.
Photos by Greg Lehman
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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; email@example.com