McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Trailing Linfield by three with 2:45 to play, visiting Whitworth outscored the Wildcats 9-3 down the stretch for a hard-fought 78-75 victory on Saturday night at Ted Wilson Gym.
The 7th-ranked Pirates improved to 13-2 overall and 5-1 in the Northwest Conference, taking over sole possession of second place in the league standings. The Wildcats fell to 12-4, 4-2.
Ben College converted a three-point play and Jordan Lester followed with a three-pointer to turn a 72-69 deficit into a 75-72 lead with 1:22 to go. After a defensive stop, Kyle Roach hit a fall-away jumper in the key to give the Bucs a 77-72 lead with 22 seconds to play. After a Linfield three-point play followed by a College free throw, Liam O'Reilly missed a potential game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds and Jared Christy secured the rebound. He passed out to Isaiah Thomas and Whitworth ran out the clock.
College led the Pirates with 26 points while Hernandez came off the bench for 15 points. Roach scored eight of his 12 points in the second half. Christy led the Bucs with 12 rebounds, despite playing the second half with a severe gash over his eye. Whitworth shot 43% from the field and 34.5% from three-point range.
The Pirates used an early 12-0 run for a 16-6 lead, thanks to a pair of three-pointers by College. Another College three-pointer extended Whitworth's lead to 22-10 seven minutes into the game. Linfield cut the margin to 28-24 on Dempsey Roggenbuck's basket five minutes later. Leading 33-29 with five minutes left, Whitworth outscored Linfield 9-5 down the stretch for a 42-34 lead at the break.
With 16:41 to play in the game, Linfield's Grant Gibb was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul on Christy, causing the gash on his forehead. Ben College made 1-2 free throws to give the Pirates a 48-40 lead. However, the foul seemed to fire up the Wildcats, who outscored Whitworth 18-4 over the next seven minutes of the game, taking a 58-52 lead on Roggenbuck's basket with 9:41 to play.
Whitworth fought back to take a 64-61 lead with six minutes left after a pair of Ben Bishop free throws. The Wildcats answered with an 11-4 run to take a 72-69 lead with 2:45 to play on Will Burghardt's basket before the Pirates closed with their final surge.
O'Reilly led Linfield with a game-high 27 points, 21 in the first half. He was the only Wildcat player in double figures. Linfield made 50% of its shots from the field, but only 13% (2-15) from three-point range. The 'Cats also struggled at times from the free throw line (15-25).
Whitworth has now won its last 22 games against Linfield, a streak dating to January of 2009. The Pirates will return home to host Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran next weekend.