PARKLAND, Wash. – Dustin McConnell's basket with 25 seconds to play put 4th-ranked Whitworth in the lead for the final time and the Pirates held on to defeat Pacific Lutheran 71-68 on Saturday evening at Olson Auditorium.
Whitworth improved to 18-1 overall and 10-0 in the Northwest Conference with its 18th straight victory. The host Lutes fell to 5-14, 3-7.
Neither team led by more than six points in a tightly-played contest that included several lead changes.
"This game was an absolute battle," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "I've got to give PLU a ton of credit, they played extremely well. Fortunately we again were able to get winning stops when we needed them down the stretch."
Four players scored in double figures for the Pirates, who overcame a 25-point performance by PLU's Cameron Schilling.
After Whitworth jumped out to a 13-8 lead early in the game, the Lutes took a 30-28 lead at halftime after holding the Pirates scoreless over the final 4:11 of the first half.
In the second half Cole Parker's three-pointer gave PLU a 45-43 lead, but Whitworth went on an 8-2 run to go ahead 51-47 on George Valle's three-pointer. When Wade Gebbers canned a pair of free throws to put the Bucs in front 57-51, Whitworth had taken its largest lead of the game with just under eight minutes to play.
The lead was still 60-54 when the Lutes used a 12-2 run to take a 66-62 advantage on a Schilling basket with just over two minutes to go. The Pirates then outscored the Lutes 7-0, including McConnell's key basket. Whitworth led 69-68 with five seconds left when McConnell iced the game with two free throws. Schilling had a long shot from just past half court bounce off of the rim as time expired.
McConnell led the Pirates with 17 points, while Gebbers finished with 14. Valle and Taylor Farnsworth scored 13 points apiece. Farnsworth led Whitworth with five rebounds and scored all of his points in the second half. The Bucs made 50% (20-40) of their shots from the field, including 50% (6-12) from three-point range.
"Farnsworth had a great second half and Wade really toughed through this one despite being ill," Logie said. "Dustin was extremely steady and had some key steals on addition to the key go ahead basket."
Schilling was 10-13 from the field and 5-7 from the free throw line for his 25 points for PLU. Parker had 15 points off of the bench and Drew Earnest finished with ten. The Lutes made 53% (24-45) of their shots from the floor, 35% (6-17) from three point range.
The difference in the game came at the free throw line where Whitworth made 25-33 while PLU made 14-17.
Whitworth's 18-game winning streak is its third-longest in school history.
The Pirates return home to host second-place Lewis & Clark next Friday night at 8:00 pm in a game that will be carried live on SWX.