Whit Men Rally Past Lutes, Stake Sole Claim to NWC Second Spot

News Release Date:
Friday, February 3

WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Finishing the final five minutes on an 18-5 scoring spree, Whitman College claimed sole possession of second place in the Northwest Conference men's basketball standings with a 73-68 victory over Pacific Lutheran Friday night in Sherwood Center.

Whitman 73,
Pac. Lutheran 68

  Box Score

Whitman, now 8-3 in the NWC and 15-5 on the season, started the night in a three-way tie for second place.

Puget Sound, the other team wedged into that logjam, lost its Friday night game by 19 points at first-place Whitworth to fall into a fourth place tie with Pacific Lutheran.

Josh Duckworth

The two Tacoma schools head to Saturday games with identical 7-4 conference records, a half-step behind George Fox, which is 8-4 after scrambling past Pacific.

Saturday's slate has Pacific Lutheran playing at Whitworth while Puget Sound comes to Walla Walla to face the Missionaries.

Whitman had Pacific Lutheran's number early in Friday's game, taking a 30-22 lead after sophomore Ben Eisenhardt finished a three-point play in the lane with eight minutes left in the first half.

But the Lutes rallied to lead 41-39 by intermission, carried that momentum into the final 20 minutes and led for much of the second half.

                                David Michaels
                                                    Photos by Greg Lehman

High tide for the visitors came with 5:48 left to play. That's when Cameron Schilling's 3-point strike gave Pacific Lutheran its largest lead of the night at 63-55.

Senior David Michaels, who led all scorers with 30 points, started the Missionary comeback with two free throws.

After junior Drew Raher negated Pacific Lutheran's ensuing possession with a steal, Michaels grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled again, and again knocked down two freebies.

Neither side scored on its next few possessions, but Michaels fed junior Ignas Pavilonis for a three that reduced Whitman's deficit to a single point at 63-62 with 3:36 remaining.

Pacific Lutheran's Andrew Earnest answered with a three, but Raher countered 20 seconds later with a three of his own to pull Whitman back within a point.

Both teams missed their next attempts from the 3-point arc.

But Whitman's miss turned into the night's most spectacular play when sophomore Josh Duckworth flew across the lane for an offensive rebound that he flipped back over his head and into the basket while being fouled.

Duckworth converted the free throw and Whitman was back on top 68-66 with 1:52 left to play.

The Lutes, who made just two of 12 free throw attempts on the night, had a chance to tie when Terrell Williams stepped to the line with 1:20 on the clock.

After neither shot dropped, Michaels added to his highlight reel at the other end, turning into the key to can a short jumper with a defender hanging on his arm. The 6-foot-7 forward tacked on the free throw to extend the Whitman lead to 71-66 with less than a minute remaining.

The Lutes missed their next shot and the Missionaries traded free throws by Raher and Pavilonis for a Kai Hoyt layup to keep the final margin at five points.

Michaels, who also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, hit or surpassed the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season by making five of seven 3-point attempts and going nine of 13 from the free throw line.

Ben Eisenhardt

Michaels is averaging 28.5 points in his last five conference games.

Whitman, which has won seven of its last eight games, collected 12 three-point baskets on the night. Pavilonis had four while scoring 13 points, and Raher made three of four from downtown en route to 10 points and six rebounds.

Raher continues to top the NWC in 3-point accuracy, having made 25 of 44 (56.8 percent) of his attempts on the season.

Duckworth added nine points, four rebounds and three assists, and Eisenhardt battled foul trouble while contributing seven points and five boards.

Whitman won the rebounding fight 43-35, but Pacific Lutheran compensated for its meager free throw production by shooting 50 percent from the floor (28-56 fg), which included a 10-of-20 showing from the 3-point arc.

Cameron Reister, who was three of four from long distance, led the Lutes with 17 points. Conti was six of eight from field overall while combining 15 points with seven assists and three steals.

Schilling finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Hoyt chipped in with 10 points and eight boards.

- 30 -

CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; holden@whitman.edu