Surprisingly the lights were still on at the Whitworth Fieldhouse late Saturday night, even after the George Fox Bruins shot them out.
Shrugging off a capacity crowd on Senior Night, George Fox hit 53 percent of its shots en route to a stunning 89-81 win over a Whitworth team that is still trying to clinch its fourth straight outright Northwest Conference basketball championship.
The third-ranked Pirates figure to do that next week on the road at last-place Linfield on Friday, or at eighth-place Willamette the following night, but it would have been so much easier at home.
After honoring seniors Wade Gebbers, Mack Larkin and Zach Payne, the Pirates struggled early against the hot-shooting Bruins, who also dominated the offensive boards when it mattered most.
“We have to stop worrying about winning championships and start focusing doing what got us in this position,” said head coach Matt Logie.
After an 0-for-2 week that started with an overtime loss at Whitman, the Pirates (20-2 overall and 12-2 in the NWC) lead the Missionaries by two games with two to go. At stake is the host role for the postseason championship game on Feb. 23; the Pirates are guaranteed to host a semifinal game on Feb. 21.
Until this week, Whitworth hadn’t lost back-to-back conference games since January 2009, a streak of 78 games.
On Saturday, the Pirates trailed from start to finish against third-place George Fox (9-5 in the NWC and 14-9 overall), which already had clinched a spot in the postseason.
George Fox took control from the outset. After back-to-back 3-pointers from Anthony Sanchez and a pair of layins, the Bruins led 22-10 with 10:20 left in the first half.
Colton McCargar’s driving layin cut the deficit to 28-23, but the Bruins’ A.J. Grant – who had 11 points in the first half – hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 33-23. Another run brought the Pirates within 4, but George Fox rallied to take a 37-29 advantage into the locker room.
The Bruins were 16 for 28 from the field in the first half, while Whitworth was 11 for 26 and outrebounded 17-11.
The Pirates never got closer than five points in the second half, that coming on a 3-pointer from guard Wade Gebbers that made it 47-42 with 15:24 left.
The hot-shooting Bruins quickly stretched the lead back to 12 on a layup by Sean Atkins with 12:13 left, and never led by less than seven until the final minute.
“We didn’t have the defensive intensity and execution level that has made us successful, and if you don’t have that, people can beat you,” Logie said. “We won our share of close games, and a lot of that is that we rely on our defense to keep us in close games, and tonight we weren’t able to do that.”
Dustin McConnell scored the last of his game-high 19 points with a 3-pointer that cut the gap to 83-77 with 40 seconds left, but George Fox iced the game at the foul line.
The Pirates’ Taylor Farnsworth had 17 points. Gebbers and McCargar had 13 each.
• Box score, page C10