Some of Wade Gebbers’ shots were definitely not suitable for framing.
“There were some ugly ones there,” the Whitworth senior guard said. “But when you’re a shooter, you just have to ignore ’em and keep shooting. I’m lucky because I had guys feeding me the basketball when I was open.”
In the end, Gebbers knocked down some beauties to spark the Pirates to a come-from-behind, 74-69 win over Lewis & Clark in a Northwest Conference semifinal men’s basketball game Thursday at the Fieldhouse.
The victory sends the NWC regular-season champions into the tournament finals Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Fieldhouse against Whitman. The Missionaries (19-7) held off George Fox in Walla Walla, 90-78. The victor receives an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.
Gebbers knocked down six long-range field goals and led all scorers with 22 points to lead Whitworth, which got 16 points from George Valle, 14 from Colton McCargar and 13 from Dustin McConnell.
“I think that was the key for us,” coach Matt Logie said. “We had guys stepping up and knocking down shots. Wade, Dustin, Colton, George – those guys have been doing that for us all season.”
Overall, Whitworth (23-3) shot 52 percent from long range, knocking down 13 of 25 attempts from beyond the arc. The Bucs drilled 7 of 11 in the second half.
In addition to timely shooting, the Pirates also played spirited defense, taking away much of the Pioneers’ inside game throughout the contest.
“Defensive intensity was one of the keys for us, something we focused on,” Gebbers said.
“We had a high level of intensity early in the game, but I thought we stopped executing there for a while in the middle,” Logie said. “Our guys have progressed over the course of the season and I think we’ve built a solid defensive identity.”
Long-range shooting is what kept the Pioneers in the game. In fact, if Lewis & Clark had not connected on 8 of 13 3-point attempts in the second half, the contest would not have been close.
“Lewis & Clark is a very good 3-point shooting team,” Logie said. “There are only so many times you can rotate the ball and not give up a shot.”
The Pioneers rode back-to-back-to-back 3s to take a three-point lead, 42-39, with less than 15 minutes to play.
McConnell scored a 3 to tie the score and Gebbers found his range to put the Pirates back in the lead for good, starting with a 3-pointer from the top of the key as the shot clock ran down – holding the ball while a LC defender sailed past before calmly stroking the wide-open shot home. It was the first of three long-range shots he would make over the next 2 1/2 minutes.
The Pioneers stayed within three in the final minutes.
Serg Ovchinnikov, who hit 5 of 7 3-pointers, missed with 22 seconds left and Taylor Farnsworth snatched the rebound, was fouled and converted a pair of free throws for a 72-67 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
Connor Freeberg’s layup with 13 seconds left again brought Lewis & Clark within three, but Quintin Sims missed the final long-range shot and McCargar converted two free throws to put the game away.
Whitworth will make its eighth consecutive appearance in the tournament finals and be going after its seventh straight tournament crown.