SPOKANE, Wash. – The Northwest Conference tournament gets underway this week with top-seeded Whitworth hosting fourth-seeded Lewis & Clark on Thursday in one semifinal. If the Pirates win that game, Whitworth will host the NWC tournament final on Saturday against the winner of Thursday's Whitman-Puget Sound game. All NWC playoff games tip off at 7:00 p.m.
Whitworth is 22-3 overall record, 15-1 in the NWC, and ranked 10th in the latest D3hoops.com poll. The Pirates have won nine straight games including a road win at Whitman last Tuesday and the regular-season finale at home against Willamette on Saturday. Whitworth has also clinched its seventh straight 20-win season, extending the school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories.
NWC Tournament Info: The Northwest Conference playoffs consist of a four-team tournament with semifinals on Thursday, Feb. 23 and the championship on Saturday, Feb. 25 at the home of the highest remaining seed. As the top seed in the tournament, Whitworth has clinched the right to host both contests if the Bucs win on Thursday. Puget Sound hosts Whitman in Thursday's other semifinal. Ticket prices for Thursday's game at the Whitworth Fieldhouse are $10 for adults and $5 for children and senior adults. Students from participating schools get in for free with valid student I.D. All tickets are general admission and will only be available at the door. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
NWC Tournament History: There have been 15 conference tournaments since the NWC (then the NCIC) first began a league playoff following the 1993-94 season. Whitworth has competed in 14 of those tournaments, two ahead of Lewis & Clark for the conference's all-time lead. The Pirates are 12-7 all-time in the league playoffs and have won the last seven tournament games in which they have played. The Bucs have appeared in the championship game nine times and have won seven times: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 1996. The league did not hold a tournament in 1999, 2004 and 2005. The only season the Bucs did not qualify is 2000.
The Pirates: Whitworth won a hard-fought 81-74 contest at Whitman last Tuesday night. Whitworth shot a blistering 68% from the field in the second half, 64% from three-point range, to open up an 11-point lead over the Missionaries with eight minutes to play. But Whitman rallied late to within three points (74-71) before Idris Lasisi nailed a three-pointer from the corner to stem the tide. Lasisi poured in a career-high 27 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished five assists to lead the Pirates to victory. Dustin McConnell added 14 points, while Wade Gebbers scored eleven. Mack Larkin and Jack Loofburrow scored 10 each. Felix Friedt tied for game-high honors with 12 rebounds and, despite being held to five points, became the 22nd player in school history to record 1,000 career points.
Whitworth rolled to a 93-65 win over Willamette on Senior Night last Saturday in the Fieldhouse. Felix Friedt, in particular, celebrated Senior Night in style with a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. He also led the Pirates with six asssits. Jack Loofburrow also had a big night with 18 points, including four three-pointers. Idris Lasisi and Dustin McConnell each chipped in a dozen points, with McConnell adding five assists. Mack Larkin scored ten. Whitworth made 53% of its shots from the field and outrebounded the Bearcats 45-29. The Pirates have won the last eight meetings with Willamette.
National Ranking: Whitworth is again ranked 10th in this week's (Feb. 20) D3hoops.com top 25 poll. The Pirates were also 10th in the previous poll. Going back to the 2009-10 season, the Bucs have been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 33 consecutive polls. Last winter Whitworth reached #1 in the D3hoops.com poll twice, becoming the first school west of St. Paul, Minnesota to ever ascend to the top of the D3hoops.com national rankings.
NWC Title: Whitworth clinched the 2012 regular season NWC championship with a full week to play in the schedule. The conference championship is the Pirates' third in a row and fifth in the last six years. Whitworth has now won a total of 14 Northwest Conference titles in men's basketball (since rejoining the league in 1982).
Team Captains: The members of the Whitworth basketball team and coaching staff have voted Felix Friedt, Wade Gebbers and Michael Taylor as team captains for the 2011-12 season.
Stat Leaders: Whitworth ranks first or second as a team in several key NWC statistical categories:
Team Field Goal % - 50.0 (1st NWC)
Team Free Throw % - 79.5 (1st)
Team 3-Pt % - 40.2 (1st)
Points Per Game – 78.0 (1st)
3-pointers made per game – 9.7 (1st)
Assists per game – 13.8 (1st)
Turnovers per game – 11.2 (2nd)
The Opponents: Lewis & Clark's back was against the wall following a 79-70 loss at Willamette on February 9th. But the Pioneers responded by winning their final three games to clinch the fourth spot in the 2012 NWC tournament. It began with a 63-53 win over fellow NWC playoff contender PLU on February 11th and then last week the Pioneers beat NWC runner-up Puget Sound 78-72 on Friday and won 70-57 at Pacific on Saturday. Junior guard James Hollins is sixth in the NWC in scoring average at 15.8 points per game and leads the league in free throw percentage (84.1%). Fellow junior Ross Erickson adds 13.0 points per contest and is fourth in the NWC in rebounding average (7.0). Senior guard PJ Taylor scores 11.6 points per game and leads his team in three-pointers made per game (2.3). As a team the Pioneers are 2nd in free throw percentage (73.6) and third in both three-pointers per game (8.5) and fewest turnovers per game (12.4).
Whitworth defeated L&C in both regular season meetings. The Pirates won 77-69 in Spokane on December 2nd, the NWC opener for both schools, by coming back from a 29-27 halftime deficit. Felix Friedt had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucs, while Wade Gebbers added 17 points. Marcus Wells led L&C with 17 points off of the bench. Whitworth won the rematch 79-59 in Portland on January 28th. Freidt again led Whitworth with 20 points and eight rebounds as the Pirates outscored the Pioneers 33-15 after halftime. Donato Perconti came off of the bench for 11 points for L&C.
Rolling On: It's not exactly a streak, but the Bucs have won 75 of their last 82 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level. Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 50 of its last 52 – including the four wins from the last two NWC tournaments.
Home-Sweet-Home: Whitworth has been stellar in the Fieldhouse throughout the 1990's and 2000's. Since the 2001-02 season the Pirates are 111-12 (.903) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 78-5 (.939) at home. During the decade of the 1990s the Pirates won more than 80% of their games played at home.
The 41-game home court winning streak from 2009 until this December was the second-longest in Pirate history. The school record for consecutive home victories is 43, beginning during the 1994-95 season and ending during the 1997-98 season.
Learning (and winning) Against Legends: Whitworth's Matt Logie is in his first season as a head coach. Logie might have set a new standard for trial by fire as three of the first four coaches he went up against have combined for 69 years of head coaching experience and more than 1,170 victories. But Logie led the Pirates to victory against Chapman's Mike Bokosky (20 years), Cal Lutheran's Rich Rider (18 years) and Washington University's Mark Edwards (31 years).
Herr Friedt: Since his sophomore year Felix Friedt has supplied the strong, inside presence that the Pirates need to balance their outside shooting. So far this season he is second on the team in scoring average (16.4 ppg – 5th in the NWC), while making 59.5% of his shots from the field (3rd in the NWC). He currently is first in the Northwest Conference in rebounding average (8.8). Friedt devastates opponents by drawing fouls and making free throws. Not only is he second in the NWC in free throw percentage (81.4%), he has made more free throws (149) than all but two other players in the league have even attempted. He been named NWC Men's Basketball Student-Athlete of the Week twice – first on December 6th and then on January 10th. Friedt leads the conference with 12 double-doubles this season. He has 1,031 career points and became the 22nd player in Whitworth history to surpass the 1,000 career point total during the game at Whitman on February 14th.
A Second Team All-NWC selection in 2011, Friedt made 59.9% of his shots from the field last year, which was third in the NWC, and 81.8% of his free throws (also 3rd in the conference) while averaging 12.8 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game (4th in the NWC). Friedt scored a career-high 27 points on January 8th vs. Puget Sound, then followed that up with 24 points and 14 points against the Loggers on February 4th.
Also, Friedt became only the second Academic All-American in Whitworth men's basketball history in 2011. He was selected to the Capital One Academic All-America® Men's Basketball College Division Third Team, the first Pirate chosen since Bryan Depew in 2004.
Wade Leading the Way: Point guard Wade Gebbers is one of Whitworth's leading scorers so far this season, averaging 13.6 points per game (11th in the NWC). He leads the team in assists per game (3.4), which ranks third in the NWC and he also has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.8-1. Gebbers leads the league in three-pointers made per game (3.0) and ranks third in the league in three-point percentage (43.5). He scored a career-high 26 points on January 17th against Whitman.
Last season Gebbers averaged 3.35 assists per game (5th in the NWC) and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.07 - 1 was third highest in the league. He scored a season-high 20 points on Feb. 12, 2011 against George Fox, all in the second half, to lead Whitworth back from a three-point halftime deficit to an 89-66 win.
Belgian Burner: Idris Lasisi, a fourth-year transfer from North Idaho College, is making a big impact in his only season with the Pirates, averaging a team-high 16.4 points and adding 4.6 rebounds per game. His scoring average is fourth in the NWC. He also leads the team in steals (31). Lasisi scored a season-high 27 points in Whitworth's win at Whitman on Feb. 14 and finished with 25 points in the Bucs' game against nationally-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater on December 21st.
Instant Ignition: Jack Loofburrow is working his way back into the regular rotation and has come alive over the last three weeks with 87 total points off of the bench in six games. He had been sidelined with an ankle injury since early December. In 17 games this season he has averaged 9.3 points, but he can heat up and score quickly as he demonstrated in the win over Pacific Lutheran (21 points, 5-6 from 3-pt range) and in the second half of the December 3rd win over George Fox (12 points scored after halftime). The 6'-7" senior also adds 3.9 rebounds per game.
Last season he earned honorable mention All-NWC honors, despite coming off of the bench in most games. He averaged 12.1 points per game while making 45.9% (5th in the NWC) of his three-point attempts. He torched PLU for eight three-pointers last February 5th to tie the previous school record for threes in a game and tie his own career high for points (31). Just as impressive was the rebounding with an average of 6.0 (12th in the NWC) rebounds per game and he averaged 0.82 blocks per contest (3rd in the NWC). He scored a career-high 31 points while making 13 of 14 shots from the floor in a win over Colorado College on December 29, 2010.
The Next Glue Guy: Successful Whitworth teams have always had the unsung hero who does all the little things that help the team succeed, but don't always show up in the box scores. In recent years that role has been filled by the likes of Clay Gebbers ('11), Calvin Jurich ('09), and Mike Larkin ('05). This season Mack Larkin has stepped into that role. Larkin is most often tasked with guarding the opponent's best offensive player. And he has added 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds with 35 assists and 16 steals this season. Larkin missed four games in early January after suffering a mild concussion in practice. He returned for the Whitman game.
Coming up Next: If Whitworth wins Thursday's NWC semifinal, the Pirates will host the NWC tournament final on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The winner of that game earns the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
The Coach: Matt Logie is in his first season as head men's basketball coach at Whitworth. He previously worked eight seasons as an assistant coach at Lehigh University (Pa.) his alma-mater. He also spent a season as an assistant coach at Kent State. In 2010 Logie was named as the top Patriot League Assistant Coach in men's basketball in a Foxsports.com Coaches Poll and in 2011 he was recognized as one of the top 50 assistants in Mid-to-Low Major college basketball by Hoopscoop on-line magazine. Logie is originally from Mercer Island, Washington where he won a pair of state basketball championships while playing for his grandfather, Ed Pepple, a legend in Washington's high school ranks who won 952 games and four state titles in 49 years of coaching.