SPOKANE, Wash. – Wade Gebbers scored all 22 of his points after halftime to rally 5th-ranked Whitworth to a 112-100 double overtime victory over visiting Whitman in a key Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Tuesday night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
Dustin McConnell scored 24 points as the Pirates improved to 13-1 overall and 5-0 in the NWC with their 13th straight win. The Missionaries dropped to 9-5, 3-2.
The game played out much as one would expect between the two teams that were picked first and second in the Northwest Conference preseason coaches poll. The Pirates rallied from a ten-point first half deficit and several eight point deficits in the second half to force overtime. The Missionaries then fought back from a six point hole in the first overtime to force a second extra period. But then the Pirates, spurred on by a boisterous crowd of over 1,000, took over and outscored Whitman 23-11 in the final period.
"Tonight was an absolute battle," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "I was really proud of the way our guys responded time and time again."
Whitworth used an 11-3 run to grab a 22-15 lead seven minutes into the game. But the Missionaries hit 8-14 (57%) from the three-point line in the first half. Whitman went on a 11-0 burst, sparked by six straight points from Matt Mounier, to go up 26-22. The Missionaries eventually led 45-35 after a layup by Jackson Clough with 14 seconds to go, but George Valle drove for a Pirate layup just before the buzzer to pull Whitworth within 45-37 at the half.
Valle scored again to open the second half and Whitworth began to chip away, eventually tying the game 60-60 on a steal and breakaway layup and free throw by Robby Douglas. Another Douglas basket gave the Pirates a 70-66 lead with just over seven minutes to go, but the Missionaries forced a 10-2 run, capped by another Mounier three ball, for a 76-72 lead with three minutes to go. Colton McCargar answered with a huge three-pointer to get the Bucs back within a point. Down two points with 21 seconds left, Gebbers hit two free throws to force overtime as the Pirates' defense prevented a good look at the basket for Whitman before time expired.
Gebbers then opened the first overtime with a three and Whitworth went up 87-81 after a layup by Taylor Farnsworth. But this time it was Whitman's turn to fight back. Josh Duckworth hit a fall-away three-pointer to pull his team within one and Dominic Lippi made one of two free throws with 3.9 seconds left to tie the game again. Gebbers could not get off a shot before time expired.
The tone for the final overtime was set when Gebbers stole the ball and drove for a layup on Whitman's opening possession. After Ben Eisenhardt tied the game, McConnell and Gebbers hit back to back three-pointers for a 97-91 Whitworth lead. Gebbers drove hard for a basket that made it 99-92 and McConnell took a steal the other way for a three-point play that stretched the Pirate lead to 102-92 with 2:00 to go.
McConnell and Gebbers led six Pirates in double figures. McConnell was 8-11 from the field, 4-5 from three-point range. Gebbers was 6-10 from the field and 4-7 from the three-point stripe after halftime and he finished the game with seven assists.
"Wade and Dustin really stepped up and made big plays down the stretch as winning guards do," Logie said.
McCargar came up huge again for Whitworth with 19 points off of the bench. He was 3-3 from long distance. Farnsworth posted 13 points and nine boards, while Valle finished with a dozen points. Douglas also had a big game off of the bench with 11 points.
Whitworth shot 59% (41-69) from the field and made 18-22 (82%) from the free throw line. But the biggest difference in the second half was how the Pirates took better care of the basketball. After turning the ball over 10 times in the first 20 minutes, Whitworth finished the game with only eight more against Whitman's tough pressing defense.
Mounier, Eisenhardt and Ryan Gilkey all scored 17 points for the Missionaries. Duckworth finished with 15 points and six assists, while Ignas Pavilonas had 14 points. Drew Raher and Eisenhardt had six boards each.
Whitman made 53% (32-61) of its shots in the game, but the Missionaries cooled off from three-point range, making only 3-12 after halftime.
Whitworth will play another important conference game on Friday night at George Fox (6-5, 2-1).