Men's basketball wraps up bittersweetly

In five extra minutes of overtime, the Whitworth men’s basketball team fought to prolong its visit to the Midwest but fell short with a 74-71 loss to the University of Virginia Wesleyan during the NCAA Division III Sweet 16.

Despite the disappointment of losing, head coach Matt Logie said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I found out long ago my plans for myself and those around me aren’t nearly as impactful as what God has in store,” Logie said.

In the closing 30 seconds of regulation, Whitworth led by a point, but a foul charged to the Pirates allowed the Marlins to tie the game from the stripe with 21 seconds remaining. Logie opted for a timeout, designing a play for Lasisi to drive to the hoop. But time ran out before the play was executed and the game went into overtime.

“We had a couple of chances at the end [but] we couldn’t get that next defensive stop,” sophomore guard Dustin McConnell said. “It’s just kind of the way things went.”

A steal with eight  seconds left in overtime gave the Pirates one last shot at a win, but the chance was stripped away when a jump ball was called, Virginia Wesleyan won possession and the Bucs were forced to foul.

“If we had more time I think we would have come away with a win,” senior forward Jack Loofburrow said. “But I guess you could say that with everything loss.”

Junior guard Wade Gebbers hit two free throws to put Whitworth on the board two minutes into the game. The Pirates struggled to connect on the offensive end, and Virginia Wesleyan led until the 12-minute mark when Loofburrow hit a 3-pointer to give Whitworth a 14-13 advantage. Loofburrow lead the Bucs with three treys on the game.

“He’s done that all year long,” Logie said. “Since he’s been back from his injury, he’s been such a spark off the bench.”

The Marlins buckled down on defense and held Whitworth to 42 percent from the field in the first half. But as they’ve done all year, the Pirates let their offense take care of itself and instead focused on shutting down Virginia Wesleyan defensively.

“We knew that to keep moving on at this part of the season we’d have to rely on our defense,” McConnell said. “We did a good job [defensively] and it kept us in the game.”

Whitworth faced a tight man-to-man defense and was forced to play a more physical game than it’s used to.

“[This was] probably the most physical game in the post season [and] the most athletic team we’ve played against this year,” Loofburrow said. “We’re used to being pressured, but our guards did do a good job getting the ball up the court.”

Junior forward Mack Larkin scored off a layup to keep Whitworth within four points of the Marlin’s lead and Loofburrow delivered on a 3-pointer to bring the Bucs within one as the clock ran down in the final minutes of the first half. But Whitworth was unable to regain the lead and went in to the locker room down 35-30.

“We talked at halftime that we were a few shots away from having a lead and not be discouraged,” Logie said.

A 10-2 run turned the tide of the game as senior post Felix Friedt went to work in the paint and fueled the Bucs to a 38-37 lead early in the second half. Multiple hustle plays by sophomore guard Colton McCargar kept Whitworth fired and Loofburrow scored five consecutive points to drive Whitworth to a 45-51 lead, its largest of the night, with 9:16 remaining.

“Felix did a good job attacking,” McConnell said. “[And] getting defensive stops and making it hard on the other team is huge.”

But the run was short-lived, as Virginia Wesleyan rallied back for the eighth lead change of the night. Senior forward Idris Lasisi drained a three to put Whitworth up once again, but as time ticked down and the Marlins were forced to foul, he missed the front end of a one-and-one. With just 21 seconds remaining in the game, Friedt was called for a foul and Virginia Wesleyan hit two free throws to tie the game at 61. Whitworth held the ball for the remaining 20 seconds but was unable to get a shot off before the end of regulation.

“We would’ve liked to close the door in regulation,” Logie said. “[But] we’ve been in that situation before so I felt good going into [overtime].”

The Pirates had their chances throughout the close overtime period; neither team built more than a three point lead.

“With five minutes [of overtime] I thought we could make a run, make some stops and close it out,” Gebbers said.

Gebbers drove the lane with 19 seconds remaining to give Whitworth a one-point lead. The Marlins answered with a floater on the left side of the key, and the Pirates found themselves down one with 10 seconds left for a last chance shot. Hope faded with a Whitworth turnover in the backcourt and Virginia Wesleyan got the ball back with eight seconds left.

McConnell made the steal of his career when he flicked the Marlin inbounds pass toward the Pirate end of the court, ran the ball down before getting shoved from behind, and recovered it in position to lay it in. Down to three seconds left on the clock, a Marlin player mauled McConnell from behind, tying him up under the basket. The referee called a jump ball, and the arrow pointed in Virginia Wesleyan’s favor. Lasisi fouled on the inbounds and the Marlins made two free throws to make the final score  74-71.

“We missed some free throws [and] had some turnovers, while they hit big shots when they needed to,” Gebbers said. “We had a chance to the end; they won.”

Friedt led the Bucs with 25 points and 10 rebounds, Loofburrow added 13 points, Gebbers scored 12 points and had three steals and Lasisi contributed 11 points.

“There are things you could go back and change,” Loofburrow said. “But if you think that way then it makes it a tougher loss than it needs to be.”

The No. 7 ranked Pirates closed out their season with a third consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 and a 26-4 record. A win would have placed Whitworth into the Elite Eight on Saturday night against host school Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“I’m proud I could experience this first season with this group of guys,” Logie said. “Hopefully the lessons they learn with us, in situations like this, will serve them well.”

Story by Corina Gebbers Staff Writer

Photo by Tanner Scholten

Contact Corina Gebbers at cgebbers15@my.whitworth.edu.

Whitworth shoots its way to NWC title

The Whitworth men’s basketball team clinched the Northwest Conference title after wins on the road against Linfield College and Pacific University on Feb. 10 and 11. “I think that everything we’ve been working for is much closer and much more tangible,” said head coach Matt Logie. “[Motivating the players] is easier in this point in time with the opportunity to accomplish the goals we set at the beginning of the year.”

The Pirates kicked off the weekend with a 95- 67 win against Linfield. The Wildcats nearly upset Whitworth on Jan. 14, but Whitworth learned from their mistakes and overcame the Wildcats the second time around.

“The first time we didn’t execute defensively the way we would have like to,” Logie said.

Senior guard Wade Gebbers sparked the Bucs’ offense with two treys, and a bucket by junior forward Mack Larkin boosted Whitworth to an early lead. Senior forward Jack Loofburrow rallied the Pirates with five consecutive points, but Linfield managed to answer with a 7-0 run.

Contributions from the bench supplied another flare for the Pirate offense. Junior guard Colton McCargar went four for four from three-point range in the first half, while Loofburrow generated offensive momentum for Whitworth, scoring 10 of his 13 points during the first half.

“Everyone’s contributing,” said redshirt freshman guard Austin Ehlo. “And if someone gets tired there’s someone to step up.”

Whitworth powered over the Wildcats in the second half despite foul trouble for senior post Felix Freidt (pictured left) and senior post Michael Taylor. Linfield struggled to defend the Pirate offense, and Whitworth went on to shoot 61.35 percent in the second half.

“We were really ready to go and pumped to come out this weekend,” McCargar said. “We really executed well.”

Whitworth pulled ahead 72- 55 on a Gebbers’ trey. Linfield couldn’t endure Whitworth’s fast-paced offense and solid defense, and the Pirates sustained their significant lead.

“Toward the end of the game we really pushed the ball and played faster and were able to score points in bunches,” Logie said.

Senior forward Idris Lasisi and McCargar led the Bucs with 15 points apiece. Larkin finished with 13 points and junior guard Dustin McConnell, Ehlo and Friedt each contributed 10 points.

On Saturday night the Pirates beat Pacific University 76-54 to secure the NWC title.

“Tonight we came in with a plan and from the start we played with a lot of energy,” Gebbers said.

After four lead changes to start the game, Lasisi hit a three-point basket to spark an 8-2 run for the Pirates and Gebbers hit his 71st trey of the season to put Whitworth up 20-13. But Pacific played relentlessly and stayed within 10 points until just eight minutes remained in the first half.

“We lost our energy for a few possessions,” Gebbers said. “[But] we came right back at them with a run of our own every time they started to get their confidence up.”

The Pirates combined aggressive offense with tough defense to gradually extend their lead to 48-25 going into halftime.

“We did a good job of locating shooters and playing good defense in the post,” Gebbers said. “We were able to string some stops together and that fueled our offense.”

Pacific scored the first points of the second half, but Friedt answered with a bucket for Whitworth, and the Pirates extended their lead to as many as 30 points by game’s end.

Lasisi led all players with 24 points, Loofburrow contributed 14 points, and Gebbers added 10 points and five assists for the Pirates.

Before the games Logie reflected on the past month’s importance to his team.

“Every weekend we had important games on our schedule,” Logie said. “We were really able to have a lot of success during that time and put ourselves in the lead in the conference.”

The Pirates took a hit losing Loofburrow, Larkin and junior forward Zach Payne to injuries, but found strength off the bench, and formed an identity of hard work and confidence in each other.

“I think we’ve really kind of figured out who we are,” Logie said. “Everybody knows their role and we’re playing really well together because everyone has had to step up.”

The Pirates battled close games both at home and on the road, including a double overtime win over Pacific Lutheran University and a victory at the University of Puget Sound.

“Our trip to Tacoma in early January was a critical moment for us,” Logie said. “We had a lot of different guys step up and help us to those victories, [and] I think that gave us a lot of confidence through the rest of the month.”

Whitworth, ranked ninth in the nation as of last Sunday, hosts its final conference game on Feb. 18 against Willamette.

Story by Corina Gebbers Staff Writer

Contact Corina Gebbers at cgebbers15@my.whitworth.edu.

File photo: Chrissy Roach Photo caption: Senior Felix Friedt was named 2nd Team All-NWC last year. The Pirates play their last conference game on Feb. 18.