Basketball players and fans jump for joy after Whitman beat No.1-ranked Whitworth 82-79 Tuesday night in a raucous and packed Sherwood Center. Photo by Greg Lehman
WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Whitman College outscored Whitworth University 17-0 over the final five minutes to beat the Pirates 82-79, handing the nation's top-ranked NCAA Division III team its first loss of the season Tuesday night in Sherwood Center.
Winning a school-record eighth straight game, Whitman improved to 18-6 on the season and 11-4 in the Northwest Conference, taking sole possession of second place with one game remaining in the regular season.
The loss dropped Whitworth to 23-1 on the season and 14-1 in the NWC. The setback also snapped a 34-game NWC winning streak for the Pirates, who failed to score a single point over the final 5:41 of the game.
Whitworth led 79-65 after Felix Friedt made two free throws with 5:41 left to play. After the Pirates missed their next three shots from the floor, Missionary freshman Josh Duckworth nailed a 3-pointer at the 3:34 mark to spark Whitman's game-winning explosion.
After sophomore Drew Raher made a steal and shot down the court for a layin, sophomore Ignas Pavilonis picked off another steal and hit another three to cut the Missionary deficit to 79-73 with 2:43 left on the clock.
Junior Brandon Shaw kept the surge going with a spin move in the paint, twirling the ball into the hoop while being fouled. His free throw made it 79-76.
Following a Whitworth misfire near the hoop, Duckworth struck again on Whitman's next possession, lofting home a game-tying 3-pointer with a minute remaining to send the packed Sherwood Center crowd into an eardrum-busting frenzy.
When Clay Gebbers missed two Whitworth free throws with 35 seconds left, Shaw was fouled on the rebound and made one of two free throws to give Whitman its first lead since the first minute of play.
Mike Taylor, who led all scorers with 30 points, missed a jumper on Whitworth's next trip down the floor. Pavilonis rebounded and fed the ball to Duckworth, who was fouled.
Duckworth swished both pressure-packed free throws to extend Whitman's lead to 82-79 with just 16 seconds left on the clock.
After David Riley missed a 3-pointer on the next Whitworth possession, Whitman rebounded and had the game in hand. A long pass down the court tumbled out of bounds, however, as two Missionaries collided trying to make the reception.
With less than three seconds on the clock, Whitworth got off a final desperation shot from beyond mid-court that failed to draw iron at the buzzer.
Duckworth, who hit four of five 3-pointers, led Whitman with a 24 points and eight rebounds, which were season-high numbers in both areas for the 6-foot-2 guard. Shaw finished with 18 points and Justin Artis, Whitman's lone senior, added 12 points and five rebounds.
Raher gave the Missionaries nine points and seven rebounds. Junior David Michaels chipped in with six points and seven rebounds, helping Whitman outrebound the Pirates 43-30.
Wade Gebbers, who combined with Taylor to drill 10 of 17 3-pointers for Whitworth, added 19 points, six assists and six rebounds. The Pirates also got eight rebounds from Friedt and seven points apiece from Clay Gebbers and Jack Loofburrow.
To start the game, Whitman sophomore Peter Clark canned a 3-pointer to give his side a short-lived lead. Whitworth responded by knocking down five of its first six baskets from beyond the arc, bolting to early leads of 16-5 and 19-12.
The Missionaries stayed close, getting threes from Artis and Shaw and an offensive rebound putback from freshman Ryan Gilkey to forge a 21-21 deadlock midway through first half.
Whitman was still within a point at 35-34 after two Shaw free throws with 5:27 left in the half, but the Pirates used a 17-7 scoring spree to take a 52-42 advantage into intermission. Whitworth drilled 10 3-pointers in the half with Taylor going five of six from downtown.
After Taylor opened the second half with two baskets, one of them a three, Clay Gebbers connected three times from the 3-point line to rocket the Pirates into a 66-45 lead with 16 minutes left in the game.
Whitman still trailed 74-56 after Taylor's jumper with 9:46 on the game clock, but that turned out to be Whitworth's last basket of the game.
While the Pirates were making three of four free throws over the next three minutes, Artis canned a jumper and Michaels dropped in two Missionary free throws to breathe some life back into their teammates.
Duckworth connected on Whitman's next two baskets, one of them a three, to pull the home team within 76-65 with 6:30 remaining. After Riley made made one of two charity tosses, Friedt made his two freebies to give the Pirates what looked like a reasonably safe 79-65 lead.
Whitworth, already assured of the No. 1 seed in next week's NWC four-team playoff format, finishes the regular season at Pacific on Saturday.
Whitman, which has won 16 of its last 18 games, plays Friday at Pacific. A victory in that game will assure Whitman of a first-round home playoff game against Lewis & Clark.
Women Broadside Pirates, Near Playoff Spot
It's one down and one to go for a Whitman College women's basketball team in pursuit of the fourth and final Northwest Conference playoff spot.
Whitman knocked off visiting Whitworth 74-61 Tuesday night in Sherwood Center, improving to 8-7 in the NWC (14-10 overall) and grabbing sole possession of fourth place in the conference standings.
The loss dropped Whitworth (11-13, 7-8) into sixth place, one-half game behind Linfield College (12-10, 7-7).
Both Whitman and Whitworth finish the regular season later this week against Pacific University (6-17, 2-12) in Forest Grove, Ore. Whitman battles the Boxers on Friday with Whitworth set to play on Saturday.
Whitman can clinch the fourth playoff spot by beating Pacific on Friday, even if Linfield wins its last two games to pull even with the Missionaries in the final standings. Whitman holds the tie-breaker by virtue of its two victories over the Wildcats this season.
Linfield hosts George Fox (18-5, 12-2) on Friday and finishes Saturday at Pacific Lutheran (5-17, 3-11).
Whitman jumped on Whitworth early in Tuesday's game and led 35-18 by halftime. The Missionaries then opened the second stanza on a 21-11 run to widen their lead to 27 points at 56-29 with 12 minutes left to play.
The Pirates got their offense untracked at that point, outscoring Whitman 14-1 over the next four minutes to crawl back into the game.
Whitworth kept chipping away until Taylor LaMoreaux's three-point play in the paint closed its deficit to 63-52 with six minutes remaining.
Whitman's go-to player, junior point guard Jenele Peterson, answered back on the next Missionary possession, stepping up to hit a step-back 3-pointer that beat the shot clock and stemmed the tide.
Sophomore Mary Madden scored off an offensive rebound on Whitman's next trip down the floor. She was fouled on the play and added the free throw to put some air back in Missionary lead at 69-52 with just over four minutes left on the clock.
Two Whitworth buckets, one of them from the 3-point stripe, cut Whitman's lead to 71-59 at the two-minute mark, but first-year guard Tiffani Brewer scored off a back-cut to ice the victory.
Jenele Peterson led all scorers with 18 points and five assists. Brewer finished with 11 points, five rebounds and four steals.
Peterson and Brewer both hit a pair 3-pointers, as did junior guard Jennifer Keyes. Whitman was seven of 13 from the 3-point stripe while holding the Pirates to a five of 15 showing from long distance.
Whitman also got nine points from first-year forward Sarah Anderegg and eight points apiece from Madden and senior center Rebecca Sexton. Sexton also handed our four assists and snared four rebounds.
With eight rebounds (and six points), first-year center Meghan White paced Whitman to a 40-28 advantage on the backboards. Sophomore guard Kelly Peterson collected seven rebounds to go with six points.
Lexi Belcher led Whitworth with 15 points and six rebounds. Emily Guthrie buried three 3-pointers while combining 11 points with five rebounds and five steals.
Leading 15-14 midway through the first half, the Missionaries took charge with a 11-0 spurt sparked by 3-point bombs by Keyes and Kelly Peterson.
The Pirates briefly closed to within 26-17, but Whitman finished off the last four minutes on a 9-1 run that staked the home team to a commanding 35-18 lead at the break. White added to the late surge with two free throws and an offensive rebound putback.
Applying full-court defensive pressure for much of the half, Whitman forced the Pirates into 11 turnovers and outrebounded the visitors by a 24-14 margin. Brewer had three steals in the opening half while Jenele Peterson had 12 points on the board by intermission.
Contact: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director