Whitworth had to dig deep Saturday night.
Facing another determined opponent, Whitworth overcame its biggest halftime deficit of the season to defeat Linfield 65-61 in a Northwest Conference basketball game Saturday night.
The Pirates trailed 61-60 with 57 seconds left after Linfield’s Andrew Batiuk scored the last of his game-high 24 points on a short jumper. The Pirates raced down the court, almost losing the ball and the game, but got the ball to guard Dustin McConnell, who played all 40 minutes and finished with 10 points.
With no hesitation, McConnell pulled up for a long 3-pointer with 13 seconds left that decided the game.
“We’ve been told not to be hesitant in that situation and I got a great pass,” said McConnell, a sophomore from Clarkston.
“We have great confidence in him,” Pirates coach Matt Logie said of McConnell.
“There’s certain times when you’re going to get one great shot,” Logie added.
The Pirates trailed by seven at intermission – their biggest halftime deficit of the season – and twice fell behind by nine before rallying to win their 44th home game in their last 45 outings.
Linfield had lost six of its previous seven games, but won the battle inside and outside for much of the game and threatened to turn the NWC race upside down.
“We told our guys that when conference play began, that it would be a different game,” Logie said. “Linfield played a terrific game and shot well, but our guys found a way to battle through it.”
Center Felix Friedt was held scoreless for 15-plus minutes, but finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double. Idris Lasisi was Whitworth’s leading scorer with 23.
The win kept the 10th-ranked Pirates two games ahead of the conference pack. Whitworth is 6-0 in conference and 13-2 overall. Linfield fell to 1-5 and 3-12.
The final minutes were dramatic. Linfield led 58-54 and regained the ball with 4:17 left, but missed a short shot and Lasisi hit a 3-pointer to make it 57-58. A steal by McCargar led to a Gebbers baseline drive and a 59-58 lead for the Pirates with 2:53 left.
After Zach Anderson tied it at 59 on a free throw with 1:43 left, Friedt made a free throw with 1:10 remaining to set up the last-minute heroics.
Whitworth led for most of the first half, but struggled in the final minutes. The Wildcats asserted themselves inside, the Pirates continued to miss and Linfield scored the last seven points before intermission to lead 29-22.
Friedt was held scoreless for the first 15 1/2 minutes of the game and was outscored 10-5 by Wildcat post David Lee.
The Pirates connected on just 2-of-12 3-point shots in the first half, while Linfield hit 5-of-11 and also won the rebounding battle 15-11.
The Pirates haven’t lost a conference game since an 81-71 defeat to and the hands of Puget Sound in February 2009.
The Pirates play Whitman, an 81-66 winner over Pacific, Tuesday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse. The game is part of a doubleheader that begins with the women’s game at 6 p.m. Whitman, 11-4 overall, is in a three-way tie for second place at 4-2.