February 13, 2012 in Sports

Whitworth men clinch basketball championship

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Whitworth coach Matt Logie had no trouble rolling the credits Monday for the Pirates’ third straight Northwest Conference men’s basketball championship.

“The most pleasing thing is the way many different guys stepped up when they were needed most,” said Logie, who had to juggle his lineup for most of December and January as regulars Jack Loofburrow and Mack Larkin were injured. “The players, the coaches, everybody stepped up.”

With a pair of wins in Oregon last weekend, the Pirates (13-1 in the NWC and 20-3 overall) took a three-game lead on the field with two games remaining. They also clinched their seventh straight 20-win season.

“We’re just very excited because this (the NWC title) was our first team goal,” Logie said of his first year at Whitworth. “I’m proud of the guys and the way they’ve bought into what we’ve coached.”

The Pirates are ranked 10th in this week’s D3hoops.com national poll.

Regardless of what happens this week, Whitworth owns home-court advantage for the NWC tournament March 23 and 25. Pairings won’t be finalized until the end of the regular season Saturday night.

Still, the regular season matters plenty, beginning with tonight’s game at Whitman, which handed the Pirates their only NWC loss, 77-66 last month in Spokane. That’s because the Pirates hope to reach their third straight Division III national tournament, and they still have two routes open.

In case they lose in the conference tourney, there is still hope for an at-large bid, but likely only if they take care of business this week.

The Pirates’ final regular-season home game is Saturday against last-place Willamette.

The gut feeling, says Whitworth athletic director Aaron Leetch, is that the Pirates can afford one more loss through the NWC tourney, but not two.

It may not come to that; Whitworth is hitting its stride. Since losing to Whitman, the Pirates have won their last seven games by an average of 16 points.

“The real beauty of that (the injuries) was the opportunity to develop some of our other players and our depth,” said Logie. “We’re finding our roles now that we’re healthy, and we’re playing our best basketball.”

Meanwhile, Whitworth has submitted bids to host first- and second-round tournament games on March 1-3, and plans to submit another for the second and third rounds the following weekend, says sports information director stephen Flegel.

Division III selections and pairings will be announced on Feb. 27.

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