SPOKANE, Wash. – The second season begins this week when Whitworth hosts Lewis & Clark in the Northwest Conference tournament semifinal on Thursday night. The 8th-ranked Pirates and the Pioneers will tip off at 7:00 pm. The game will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the web at KSBN.net.
Live links to Thursday's game can be found here:
NWC Tournament Info: The Northwest Conference playoffs consist of a four-team tournament with semifinals on Thursday, Feb. 21 and the championship on Saturday, Feb. 23 at the home of the highest remaining seed. As the top seed in the tournament, Whitworth has clinched the right to host both contests if the Bucs win on Thursday. Whitman hosts George Fox in Thursday's other semifinal. Ticket prices for Thursday's game at the Whitworth Fieldhouse are $10 for adults and $5 for children and senior adults. Students from participating schools get in for free with valid student I.D. All tickets are general admission and will only be available at the door. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
NWC Tournament History: Heading into this season's event, there have been 16 conference tournaments since the NWC (then the NCIC) first began a league playoff following the 1993-94 season. Whitworth has competed in 15 of those tournaments, two ahead of Lewis & Clark for the conference's all-time lead. The Pirates are 14-7 all-time in the league playoffs and have won the last nine tournament games in which they have played. The Bucs have appeared in the championship game ten times and have won eight times: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 1996. The league did not hold a tournament in 1999, 2004 and 2005. The only season the Bucs did not qualify is 2000.
The Pirates: Whitworth closed out the 2013 NWC championship with easy wins at Linfield and Willamette last weekend. As the conference champion, Whitworth is the top seed in this week's tournament, which will determine the league's automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Division III tournament. The NWC crown is the Pirates' fourth in a row and sixth in the last seven years.
Whitworth never trailed in its 86-53 win at Linfield on Friday night. The Pirates shot 56% from the field and 44% from three-point range. Whitworth also held a 42-33 edge in rebounding during the game. George Valle surpassed his previous career high with 30 points, making 12-17 of his shots from the field. Dustin McConnell added 11 points and led Whitworth with nine rebounds and three assists. The Pirates earned their tenth consecutive victory against the Wildcats.
The Pirates led from the opening basket for the second night in a row during Saturday's 86-67 win at Willamette. Whitworth set the tone with its first half defense, holding the Bearcats to 32% shooting from the field while opening a 36-24 lead at halftime. Colton McCargar led five different players in double figures with 20 points. Dustin McConnell added 15 points and six assists, while Mack Larkin had 12 points and six points. Taylor Farnsworth also scored 12 points and George Valle finished with ten points and seven boards. The Bucs won without senior Wade Gebbers, who was held out of the game for precautionary reasons. Whitworth earned its tenth straight win over Willamette.
The Opponents: Lewis & Clark is 16-9 overall and finished 10-6 in the NWC, tying George Fox for third place in the final standings. But the Pioneers end up with the #4 seed based on tiebreakers. Last week L&C won a pair of road games to secure the final spot in the conference tournament, taking victories at Pacific (66-53) on Tuesday and at Pacific Lutheran (55-50) on Saturday. L&C leads the conference in defensive field goal percentage (41.7%) and also ranks second in the league in three-pointers made per game (8.9). Head coach Dinari Foreman, a former L&C All-American and long-time assistant coach, has guided his team to the NWC tournament in each of his two seasons leading the Pioneers. Senior guard James Hollins averages 15.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Ross Erickson, another senior guard, adds 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Dexter Pearce, a third senior guard, scores 10.4 points per game and makes 44.2% of his three-point tries. Whitworth swept both regular season meetings with L&C this season, winning 78-66 in Portland behind Colton McCargar's 18 points, and 89-70 in Spokane when Taylor Farnsworth scored 22 points.
National Raking: Bouncing back with two road wins last week, Whitworth jumped from 12th to 8th in this week's D3hoops.com top-25 poll. Going back to the 2009-10 season, Whitworth has been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 48 consecutive polls.
NWC Title: Whitworth clinched its fourth straight undisputed NWC championship with last Friday's win at Linfield. 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: 79.0
1st - Team FG%: 51.3
1st – Team 3pt%: 37.6
1st - Team FT%: 74.7
2nd – Rebound Margin: +3.2
2nd – Assists per game: 13.3
2nd – Turnovers per game: 11.8
1st – Fewest Fouls Per Game: 14.5
2nd - Defensive Points Per Game: 66.1
2nd - Opponent FG%: 42.4
Efficiency is the key: Whitworth ranks dead last in the Northwest Conference in average number of field goals attempted per game (55.6). But the Pirates rank second in field goals made per contest (28.5). Those two numbers lead to Whitworth's NWC-best team field goal percentage of 51.3, which leads the league by almost six percentage points over second place.
Total Team Effort: Whitworth currently has a 22-3 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 10th in the NWC in points per game, while Taylor Farnsworth ranks 12th in rebounds per contest. More telling to the Pirates' success is the fact that Wade Gebbers ranks second in the NWC in assists per game and McConnell ranks fourth.
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 subsequent 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 the February 2nd win over Pacific, Whitworth 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 101 of their last 111 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level. Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 66 of its last 70 – 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 124-14 (.899) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 91-7 (.929) 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 four seasons. Since the start of the 09-10 season, Whitworth is 49-8 away from home, 35-3 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 10.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He also ranks second in the NWC in assists per contest (3.2) this season. He scored a career-high 27 points at Whitman on February 5th and had 23 points in the season-opener against now top-ranked St. Thomas. Gebbers needs only six more points to become the 23rd player in Pirate history with 1,000 points in his career.
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 what was 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. On defense Larkin is most often tasked with guarding the opponent's best offensive player. On offense this season he has averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while making 51% of his shots from the field and 38% 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 42% of his shots from beyond the arc this season, which currently ranks fifth 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 13.8 points and adding 3.0 assists and 4.1 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 (12.4 ppg) and has made 52% 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 30 points in the win over Linfield on Feb. 15th and he scored 23 points in the win at Montana Tech at the end of November. 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 11.7 points and adds 4.1 rebounds per game. He is making almost 44% of his three-point tries so far this season, which leads the team and is third in the NWC. He surpassed his career-high with 20 points in the win at Willamette on February 16th. He also had 19 points in the win over Whitman (Jan. 8) and had 18 points in the wins over Puget Sound (Dec. 8) and Lewis & Clark (Jan. 5).
Block Party: Taylor Farnsworth has grown into his role as the Pirates' starting post player this season and leads the team by a wide margin in blocked shots (20). His season averages are up to 10.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg, which leads the team. He is making 61% 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).
Coming up Next: If Whitworth defeats Lewis & Clark then the Pirates will host the NWC tournament final on Saturday night against either Whitman or George Fox.
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.