SPOKANE, Wash. – Six players in double figures led Whitworth University to its sixth straight Northwest Conference men's basketball tournament title thanks to an 86-71 win over visiting Puget Sound on Saturday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The 10th-ranked Pirates improved to 24-3 and earned the NWC's automatic bid to the 2012 NCAA Division III tournament. They will find out where and when they will open the tournament when that field is announced at 9:00 a.m. (PST) on Monday. Puget Sound dropped to 20-7 and the Loggers must hope for an at-large bid to the national tournament.
Ryan Rogers hit his only basket of the game on the first Puget Sound possession, giving the Loggers a 2-0 lead. It would be their largest of the game as Whitworth went on an 8-0 run, including three-pointers by Lasisi and Gebbers. The Pirates stretched the lead to 15-6 on a strong drive to the basket by Lasisi. But UPS fought back to take a 24-23 lead on a long three-pointer by Kaleb Shelton-Johnson. Whitworth answered with four straight, including another three by Lasisi. Leading 32-19, Whitworth went on a 13-2 run to open its largest lead of the first half (46-31) on a three-pointer by Jack Loofburrow. The Bucs took a 46-34 lead into the break after Rex Holmes hit one of his three three-pointers for UPS just before the horn.
The second half featured several surges by both teams, as Whitworth would stretch the lead out to 17 or 18 points and the Loggers would close back to within 12-13. But Puget Sound was never able to get the gap down to less than double digits as Whitworth made 60% (15-25) of its shots after halftime.
Mack Larkin's breakaway layup gave Whitworth a 75-57 lead with 4:46 to go and it seemed the game was well in hand. But the Loggers had one final run, getting back within 82-71 following a basket by Edric Egberuare with 1:52 to play. UPS would not score again, however.
Holmes led the Loggers with 19 points off of the bench, making 7-12 from the field and 3-5 from the three-point line. He also shared team-high honors with five rebounds. Shelton-Johnson finished with 14 points, while Riggs Yarbro scored a dozen. Derek Jobe had ten points, while Egberaure added eight points and four assists.
Whitworth has won six straight NWC tournament titles and eight overall since 1996. The Pirates will be making their sixth straight NCAA Division III tournament appearance and seventh total.