NEWBERG, Ore. – George Valle's three-point play with 19.8 seconds to play lifted 5th-ranked Whitworth to a 61-59 win over George Fox in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Friday night at the Wheeler Sports Center.
The visiting Pirates survived 22 turnovers and wide swings in the game's momentum to improve to 14-1 overall and 6-0 in the NWC with their 14th consecutive victory. The Bruins, who had a chance to tie Whitworth atop the NWC standings in the loss column, dropped to 6-6, 2-2.
"I thought tonight we showed a lot of heart and battled back and found a way to win," said head coach Matt Logie. "Having played four games in eight days, three of those on the road, we knew tonight would be a struggle but I'm proud of our winning plays down the stretch."
The Pirates opened a 20-5 lead by making 9 of their first 12 shots. But Whitworth committed 14 first half turnovers allowing George Fox to rally into a 31-25 halftime lead. Sean Atkins had a dominating first half for the Bruins, scoring 19 of his game-high 27 points. Zach Payne led the Pirates in the first half with six points.
With Whitworth trailing 36-30 early in the second half, Colton McCargar and Dustin McConnell led Whitworth on a 13-0 run, scoring all 13 points between them, to lead their team into a 43-36 lead. McCargar's three-pointer extended the Whitworth lead to 49-41, the Bucs' largest of the second half.
But Jason Martin sparked another George Fox run with five straight points. Atkins' basket gave the Bruins a 57-51 lead with less than three minutes to play and Whitworth's winning streak was in serious jeopardy.
But as he has so many times in his career, Wade Gebbers came up with the big shot for the Pirates. His long three-pointer stemmed the tide and started Whitworth on its final game-winning 10-2 run. With the Pirates trailing 59-58 and the Bruins at the free throw line, the Bucs worked for a team rebound with 33 seconds left. That set up Valle's game winning basket and free throw with 19 seconds left. It was Valle's only basket of the game.
"Wade's three-pointer to cut the lead to three was huge for our confidence," Logie said. "Our defense was really strong down the stretch, allowing us to chip away at the lead in the final minutes."
Martin missed a potential winning three with three seconds left and the Bruins could not get another shot away.
McCargar scored 16 points to lead the Pirates, hitting 7-11 from the field. Gebbers scored 11 and led the Pirates with six rebounds. McConnell finished with ten points. Whitworth finished the game 53% (24-45) from the field, despite making only 28% (6-21) from the three-point line.
Atkins hit 10 of 19 from the field and 6-6 from the free throw line for his 27 points. Martin added 13 and was the only other Bruin in double figures. George Fox made 36% (21-59) from the field, 25% (7-28) from beyond the arc.
Whitworth will return home to host Willamette and Linfield next Friday and Saturday in the Fieldhouse.