SPOKANE, Wash. – Tim Howell hit two free throws with 0.9 seconds to play in the game to lift top-ranked Whitman to a 100-99 win over 4th-ranked Whitworth in a classic Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Tuesday night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The unbeaten Blues were able to overcome an historic performance by Whitworth's Kyle Roach to stay unbeaten and keep their NWC regular season winning streak going. Barely. Whitman improved to 22-0 overall and 13-0 in the conference and the Blues now hold a two game lead over the Pirates (19-3, 11-2) with three games to play in the regular season.
Roach scored 45 points for Whitworth, the second-highest single-game total in school history behind 51 points by Rod McDonald in 1966. It came one game after Roach had his previous career high of 39 points in a win at Lewis & Clark last Saturday night.
"That was one of the best clutch performances I've ever been part of," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie of Roach's output. "He has put us on his back these last two games and just carried us."
Ben College might have won the game for the Pirates when he hit a three-pointer with 13 seconds to play that gave Whitworth a 99-98 lead. After a timeout, Howell took the inbounds pass and held for a final shot. He created contact with Roach and drew a blocking foul with less than a second to play.
Whitworth came out on fire in the first half, opening a double-digit lead six and a half minutes into the game when Roach hit a jumper to give the Bucs a 24-13 lead. Whitworth still led 37-26 after a College basket before Whitman rallied to take a 50-49 lead on three Trevor Osborne free throws. Garrett Hull's three-pointer sent the Pirates to the locker room with a 54-51 lead.
The Bucs shot 62% in the first half, including 53% from three-point range.
Whitman opened the second half by grabbing a 69-65 lead on an Osborne three-pointer. It was the Blues' largest lead of the game. Whitworth fought back to go up 85-79 on two Sam Lees free throws with 9:18 to play. It was the Pirates' largest lead of the second half.
Whitman scored six straight points to tie the game and there were five ties and five lead changes over the final eight minutes of the game. Howell's basket with 54 seconds left broke the final tie and gave Whitman a 98-96 lead. After an exchange of turnovers, Whitworth inbounded to Roach who dropped the ball back to College and he hit nothing but net from about 24 feet.
"I thought our kids played a phenomenal game," Logie said. "We shot the ball well and limited our turnovers against their press. Our kids were tough under difficult circumstances."
Whitworth shot 56.5% in the game to 44.7% for Whitman. However, the Blues had a big advantage at the free throw line where they made 25-34 attempts. The Pirates got to the line only 14 times and made 11.
Roach made 18 of 29 shots from the floor, 4-8 from beyond the arc, and 5-8 free throws. He also had nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Jared Christy posted his 10th double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Hull scored 15 and College had 14.
Howell, the 2017 NWC Player of the Year, scored 27 points to lead Whitman. Joey Hewitt added 16 points and nine rebounds, while Austin Butler finished with 14 points, four assists and three steals. The Blues won their 37th straight NWC regular season game.
Whitworth will turn around quickly for a Friday night game at George Fox, looking to hold onto second place in the league standings.
"The great thing is these guys are college kids who respond to these kinds of games quickly," Logie said. "They'll look forward to getting back out on the floor together on Friday."