SPOKANE, Wash. – A berth in the 2012 NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament is on the line when 10th-ranked Whitworth hosts the University of Puget Sound on Saturday night in the title game of the Northwest Conference playoffs. The game will tip off at 7:00 p.m.
Whitworth is 23-3 overall record and ranked 10th in the latest D3hoops.com poll. The Pirates have won ten straight games including an NWC semifinal victory over Lewis & Clark last Thursday. Puget Sound improved to 20-6 after defeating Whitman in the other conference semifinal.
NWC Tournament/Ticket Info: The Northwest Conference playoffs consist of a four-team tournament with semifinals on Thursday, Feb. 23 and the championship on Saturday, Feb. 25. As the top seed in the tournament, Whitworth clinched the right to host both contests once the Bucs defeated L&C on Thursday. Ticket prices for Saturday's NWC tournament final 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, one ahead of Lewis & Clark for the conference's all-time lead. The Pirates are 13-7 all-time in the league playoffs and have won the last eight tournament games in which they have played. The Bucs have appeared in the championship game ten 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 was 2000.
Northwest Conference Honors: After winning the 2012 NWC title by four games, no one was surprised when Whitworth was well represented on the 2012 All-Northwest Conference basketball team. Matt Logie was selected by his peers as the NWC Coach of the Year in his first season as Whitworth's head coach. Felix Friedt and Idris Lasisi were First Team All-NWC selections, Friedt's second season on the team after earning Second Team honors last year. Wade Gebbers was named Second Team All-NWC and Jack Loofburrow earned honorable mention honors for the second straight season.
Friedt Honored: Felix Friedt has been selected to the 2012 Capital One Division III Academic All-America squad as a First Team honoree. Friedt is an Academic All-American for the second straight season after earning Third Team honors in 2011. He carries a 3.97 GPA as an international business major. He is only the second Whitworth men's basketball player to earn Academic All-America honors, following Bryan Depew in 2004.
The Pirates: Whitworth overcame a slow start in the 79-61 NWC semifinal win over Lewis & Clark on Thursday night. Idris Lasisi helped the Pirates bounce back from an early 11-2 deficit by scoring the team's first 13 points and tying his career high with 27 overall. He added eight rebounds and a pair of steals. Felix Friedt scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Whitworth outrebounded the Pioneers 46-34. Jack Loofburrow scored nine points and Colton McCargar had eight points and three rebounds off of the bench. Whitworth has now won the last nine games against Lewis & Clark.
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 and ended up winning the league by four full games. 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 % - 49.8 (1st NWC)
Team Free Throw % - 79.7 (1st)
Team 3-Pt % - 40.1 (1st)
Points Per Game – 78.1 (1st)
3-pointers made per game – 9.5 (1st)
Assists per game – 13.6 (1st)
Turnovers per game – 11.4 (2nd)
The Loggers: Puget Sound advanced to the NWC tournament final with a 79-62 win at home over Whitman on Thursday night, giving the Loggers (20-6) their first 20-win season since 2009. Riggs Yarbro and Rex Holmes both came off of the bench to combine for 26 points. Meanwhile Edric Egberuare had 13 points and four assists, while Kaleb Shelton lead all players with 14 rebounds.
UPS has closed the season by winning five of its last six games. The Loggers have been the best rebounding team in the league all season, leading the NWC in rebound margin (+9.1) and total rebounds per game (40.4). UPS is second in the conference in field goal percentage (45.7) and points per game (75.2). The Loggers make more free throws per game (17.3) and take more free throws per game (25.0) than any other team in the league.
Senior forward Anthony Gittens leads his team in scoring average (12.1) and rebounding average (8.2 – 2nd in the NWC). Fellow senior Kaleb Shelton, who was voted as a First Team All-NWC honoree, adds 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Whitworth defeated UPS in both regular season meetings. The Pirates won 80-67 in Tacoma on January 7th. Idris Lasisi and Felix Friedt each scored 21 points for Whitworth and Friedt grabbed 11 rebounds. Julian Fernandez scored 11 for the Loggers, while Kaleb Shelton added 10 points. Then The Pirates won the rematch 78-59 in Spokane on February 3rd. Friedt had 16 points, Wade Gebbers scored 14 and Dustin McConnell had 13 for the Bucs. Shelton led UPS with 14 points while Anthony Gittens scored 10.
Rolling On: It's not exactly a streak, but the Bucs have won 76 of their last 83 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level. Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 51 of its last 53 – including five wins in the last three 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 112-12 (.903) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 79-5 (.940) 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 (16.2 ppg – 5th in the NWC), while making 58.2% 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 (81.5%), he has made more free throws (159) than all but one other player 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 13 double-doubles this season. He has 1,047 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 13.2 points per game. He leads the team in assists per game (3.3), which ranks third in the NWC and he also has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.7-1. Gebbers leads the league in three-pointers made per game (2.8) and ranks fifth in the league in three-point percentage (43.0). 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 16.8 points and adding 4.7 rebounds per game. His scoring average is fourth in the NWC. He also leads the team in steals (33). Lasisi scored a season-high 27 points in Whitworth's semifinal win over Lewis & Clark and the Pirates' win at Whitman on Feb. 14.
Instant Ignition: Jack Loofburrow is working his way back into the regular rotation and has come alive over the last three weeks with 96 total points off of the bench in seven games. He was sidelined with an ankle injury for eight weeks in December and January. In 18 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 4.0 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 7.0 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.
Coming up Next: If Whitworth wins Saturday's NWC final, the Pirates will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. The announcement of the NCAA Division III bracket will be Monday at 9:00 a.m. (PST).
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.