SPOKANE, Wash. – With one more victory over the final four games of the season Whitworth will clinch another outright Northwest Conference men's basketball championship. The Pirates will get their first opportunity on Tuesday night when they play at Whitman College. Then the Bucs will host George Fox on Saturday in the regular-season home finale and senior night celebration. KSBN 1230am will carry both games live.
Watch the men's basketball schedule for links to Tuesday night's game at Whitman.
Live links to this Saturday's game against George Fox can be found here:
The Pirates: Whitworth (20-1 overall, 12-0 NWC) is one win away from its fourth consecutive Northwest Conference regular season championship, a feat which has only been accomplished three other times in league history and not since Willamette won / shared four in a row from 1987-1990. The Pirates also stretched their current winning streak to 20 in a row last weekend, marking the third time in four years they have put together a streak of at least 20 straight. And Whitworth has now posted its eighth consecutive 20-win season.
Whitworth trailed early against Lewis & Clark, but then took control midway through the first half and never looked back in an 89-70 win over the Pioneers on Friday night. The Pirates blistered the nets for 74% shooting (20-27) in the first half, on the way to 64% (35-55) for the game. Whitworth dominated the backboards, outrebounding the Pioneers 35-17. Five players reached double figures, led by Taylor Farnsworth's 22 points on 10-12 shooting. Colton McCargar finished with 16 points and George Valle tallied 13 points. Dustin McConnell had 11 points and Zach Payne chipped in ten. Whitworth earned its 11th win in a row over Lewis & Clark.
The Pirates rolled to their largest margin of victory this season in Saturday's 98-63 win over Pacific University. Whitworth was smoking hot again in the first half, shooting 74% (23-31) for the second consecutive night. The Pirates forced 17 turnovers and came away with 12 steals to spark an effective transition offense throughout the game. Dustin McConnell scored 21 points, George Valle had 15 and Colton McCargar scored 14. Whitworth earned its tenth straight win over Pacific.
The Opponents: Whitman comes into Tuesday night's game 14-7 overall and 8-4 in the NWC. The Missionaries defeated Pacific 101-68 on Friday and Lewis & Clark 74-71 on Saturday to extend their winning streak to three in a row and five of their last six. They are 6-0 at home against NWC teams this year. Whitman leads the league in points per game (91.1) and steals per game (12.0) with its high-pressure style of play. Junior post Ben Eisenhardt (6'-10") averages 16.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, while sophomore forward Matt Mounier adds 14.3 ppg and makes 36.3% of his three-point tries. Junior guard Josh Duckworth sparks the attack with his averages of 13.0 points, 2.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Whitworth pulled out a 110-100 double overtime victory over the Missionaries in Spokane on January 8th, rallying from a ten-point first half deficit and several eight-point deficits early in the second half. Dustin McConnell scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Pirates, while Wade Gebbers chipped in 22 points – all after halftime.
George Fox is 13-8 overall and 8-4 in the NWC heading into a Friday night game at Whitman. The Bruins have won four games in a row, including an 80-74 decision over Willamette on Friday and a 75-55 rout of Linfield on Saturday. George Fox leads the NWC in assists per game (14.0) and blocks per game (3.5) and has been the hardest team to make three-pointers against this season. Junior wing Sean Atkins averages team-bests of 16.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Senior wing Anthony Sanchez contributes 12.8 points and 3.4 assists per contest, while sophomore guard AJ Grant (10.0 ppg) makes 39.1% of his three-point tries. Whitworth pulled out a back-and-forth 61-59 win at George Fox on January 11th when George Valle converted a three-point play with just under 20 seconds left in the game. Colton McCargar led the Pirates with 16 points off of the bench. Whitworth has won 15 games in a row against the Bruins.
Both Whitman and George Fox are currently tied for second place in the NWC standings, one game ahead of Lewis & Clark (13-8, 7-5). The top four teams qualify for the NWC tournament.
National Raking: Whitworth remained third in this week's D3hoops.com top-25 poll (Feb. 4th), but the Pirates did pick up four first place votes in the poll for the first time. St. Thomas (Minn.) is the new top-ranked team, followed by WPI (Mass.), the only unbeaten team left in Division III. Going back to the 2009-10 season, Whitworth has been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 46 consecutive polls.
Senior Night: Whitworth will honor its three senior players on Saturday night prior to tip off against George Fox University. Those seniors are Zach Payne, a two-year Pirate by way of Diablo Valley College (Calif.), Wade Gebbers and Mack Larkin. Gebbers and Larkin have a four-year record of 100-10 to this point in their careers.
NWC Title: With a four-game lead in the NWC standings over both George Fox and Whitman with four games to play, Whitworth has clinched at least a share of the regular season NWC championship. The conference championship is the Pirates' fourth in a row and sixth in the last seven years. Whitworth has now won a total of 15 Northwest Conference titles in men's basketball (since rejoining the league in 1982). Only three times in the league's history has a team won/shared four straight conference crowns: Willamette (1987-90, two shared); Willamette (1949-52, two shared) and Whitman (1927-30). No NWC school has ever won five straight men's basketball championships.
NWC Leaders: Whitworth leads the Northwest Conference, or ranks second, this season in several team statistical categories. To the Pirates' credit, those statistical rankings come on both ends of the floor. They include:
2nd – Points per game: 77.1
1st - Team FG%: 50.9
1st – Team 3pt%: 37.8
1st - Team FT%: 73.8
2nd – Rebound Margin: +2.4
2nd – Turnovers per game: 11.9
1st – Fewest Fouls Per Game: 13.6
1st - Defensive Points Per Game: 64.3
2nd - Opponent FG%: 41.9
Efficiency is the key: Whitworth ranks dead last in the Northwest Conference in average number of field goals attempted per game (54.8). But the Pirates rank second in field goals made per contest (27.9). Those two numbers lead to Whitworth's NWC-best team field goal percentage of 50.9, which leads the league by more than five percentage points over second place.
Total Team Effort: Whitworth currently has a 20-1 record and ranks highly in many NWC team statistical categories. This all comes despite the fact that the Pirates barely have a player crack the top 10 individually in scoring and rebounding. Dustin McConnell currently ranks 9th in the NWC in points per game, while Taylor Farnsworth ranks 13th in rebounds per contest. More telling to the Pirates' success is the fact that Wade Gebbers leads the NWC in assists per game and McConnell ranks eighth.
NWC Favorites: Whitworth was picked first in the Northwest Conference preseason coaches poll. The Pirates picked up seven of nine first place votes and 70 total points. Whitman was second in the poll with two first place votes and 54 points.
Back on KSBN: Local radio station KSBN (1230am) will carry all remaining regular season Pirate games, and any post-season contests. The relationship between Pirate athletics and KSBN goes back to 1994, a span of almost 20 years. Bob Castle, whose voice has become synonymous with Whitworth athletics on the radio, is back as the voice of the Pirates in 2012-13. Bob has called Whitworth games for the past 12 seasons, as well as in 1997-98. Bob has 20 years in radio and his experience as a sports broadcaster includes stints as the voice of Spokane Indians Baseball, Gonzaga University baseball and Washington State women's basketball.
Team Captains: The members of the Whitworth basketball team and coaching staff have voted Wade Gebbers, Mack Larkin and Zach Payne as team captains for the 2012-13 season. It is the second season in a row that Gebbers has been voted as a team captain.
Ten Again and Twenty Thrice: The Dec 31st win over Hamline was the Pirates' tenth victory in a row this season. It marks the fourth consecutive year that Whitworth has put together a winning streak of at least 10 in a row. The current streak of 20 wins in a row ranks as the third-longest all-time at Whitworth and marks the third time in the last four years that the Bucs have reached 20 straight. Last year the Pirates won 13 straight games late in the season. In 2010-11 the team won its first 23 in a row to ascend to the #1 ranking in Division III basketball. And in 2009-10 the Bucs put together a school-record 25 game winning streak. Whitworth has only had five other seasons in its history with winning streaks of at least ten: 2006-07 (13 in a row); 2002-03 (12 in a row); 1995-96 (13 in a row); 1991-92 (10 in a row); 1989-90 (11 in a row).
20-Eight is Great: With Saturday's win over Pacific, hitworth extended its school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories to eight in a row. Prior to this current streak, the most 20-win seasons in a row the Pirates had ever had was two (on three different occasions).
Rolling On: The Pirates have won 99 of their last 107 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level. Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 64 of its last 66 – including the six wins from 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 124-13 (.905) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 91-6 (.938) at home. During the decade of the 1990s the Pirates won more than 80% of their games played at home.
The Pirates have had two home-court winning streaks of more than 40 games since 1990. A 41-game home court winning streak from early 2009 until December of 2011 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.
Road Warriors: As good as Whitworth is at home, the Pirates have been even better away from the Whitworth Fieldhouse in the last two seasons. Since the start of the 11-12 season, Whitworth is 23-2 away from home, 16-0 in true road games.
Wade Leading the Way: Point guard Wade Gebbers is the heart that drives the Pirate engine on the basketball floor. He has battled through persistent injuries this season to average 10.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. He also leads the NWC in assists per contest (3.4) this season. He scored 23 points in the season-opener against St. Thomas and 22 points in the comeback win over Whitman on Jan. 8th.
Gebbers earned Second Team All-Northwest Conference last season after averaging 12.8 points per game. He led the team in assists per game (3.5), which ranked third in the NWC. Gebbers led the league in three-pointers made per game (2.8) and ranked third in the league in three-point percentage (42.1). He scored a career-high 26 points on January 17th against Whitman.
In 2010-11 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.
The 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). Now Mack Larkin has stepped into that role. Larkin is most often tasked with guarding the opponent's best offensive player. So far this season he has averaged 7.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while making 53% of his shots from the field and 39% from three-point range. He scored a career-high 17 points in the win over Simpson on December 22nd.
Last season he averaged 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds with 39 assists and 19 steals, despite missing four games in early January after suffering a mild concussion in practice.
Driving Mr. Dusty: Dustin McConnell is dangerous from three-point range, making better than 44% of his shots from beyond the arc this season, which currently ranks third in the NWC. But he is even harder on opposing defenses with his hard drives to the basket, often getting the shot to go down while drawing a foul. So far this season he is averaging a team-best 13.9 points and adding 2.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. He had a career-high 24 points in Whitworth's win over Whitman on January 8th and had 23 points in the win over Willamette (Jan. 18th).
He ended up with a 7.7 scoring average last winter after taking over as a starter eight games into the season. He made 38% of his attempts from three-point range.
Frosh Phenom: George Valle has already made a huge impact in his first season with the Pirates. He is second on the team in scoring average (11.6 ppg) and has made 50% of his shots from the field. He has already been selected as a Northwest Conference Student-Athlete of the Week in men's basketball (Dec. 4). His career-high is 23 points in the win at Montana Tech and he scored the game-winning basket and free throw at George Fox on January 11th.
Mr. Reliable: Colton McCargar does everything asked of him, whether he is in the starting lineup or the first player off of the bench. He is averaging 11.2 points and adds 4.0 rebounds per game. He is making over 46% of his three-point tries so far this season, which leads the team and the NWC. He scored a career-high 19 points in the win over Whitman (Jan. 8) and has had 18 points in the wins over Puget Sound (Dec. 8) and Lewis & Clark (Jan. 5).
Block Party: Taylor Farnsworth is growing into his role as the Pirates' starting post player this season. He leads the team by a wide margin in blocked shots (18). His season averages are up to 10.2 ppg and 5.1 rpg, which leads the team. He is making 63% of his shots from the field, which currently ranks second in the Northwest Conference. He scored a career-high 29 points in the win at Pacific (Jan. 4), the team's highest single-game output so far this season.
Coming up next Week: Whitworth will close out the regular season at Linfield and Willamette next Friday and Saturday, Feb. 15-16.
The Coach: Matt Logie led Whitworth to a 26-4 record in 2011-12, his first season as coach of the Pirates. He was also selected as the NWC Coach of the Year by his peers after directing the Pirates to a 15-1 conference mark and their sixth straight NWC tournament championship.
Logie 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.