The biggest problem with being a ranked team – and the Whitworth Pirates climbed to No. 5 in this week’s Division III poll – is that it does you no favors.
The higher you climb, the more teams, especially your rivals, want to knock you down a few pegs.
Such was the case Tuesday when the Whitman College Missionaries rolled into the Fieldhouse.
Appearing all season long in the “others receiving votes” category of the D3hoops.com national poll, Whitman came in with an intense full-court press and a physical inside game to push the Bucs, figuratively and literally, in a Northwest Conference first-place showdown.
In the end, the Pirates needed two overtimes and some clutch guard play to pull out a 112-100 win in double overtime.
Guard Dustin McConnell had 10 points in the second overtime to keep Whitworth undefeated in conference play at 5-0.
McConnell and senior Wade Gebbers combined for 46 points for Whitworth (13-1), which rolled to its 13th straight victory.
Gebbers got the Pirates out of the blocks quickly in both overtime periods. In the first extra period he drilled a 3-pointer from deep in the Whitworth backcourt. The Pirates extended that lead to as many as six points, only to watch the Missionaries climb back force a second extra period.
In the second overtime, Gebbers knocked the ball loose in the Whitman backcourt and raced in for a layin to give the Pirates the lead. After McConnell dropped in a 3-pointer, Gebbers added another to make it 97-91 with less than 3 minutes to play.
McConnell led Whitworth with 24 points, with Gebbers adding 22 as five Pirates scored in double figures.
Whitman played the entire game in a full-court press, using a deep bench to keep the pressure on the home team.
The pressure took its toll in the first half, forcing 10 Whitworth turnovers – and sparked a 45-37 lead at the half.
The Pirates put pressure on the press in the first half by attacking the basket immediately after breaking the press, but Whitman adjusted at halftime to take that away.
Whitworth had relatively little trouble breaking the press in the second half, but still watched a Whitman shot at the buzzer rim off to force overtime.
Matt Mounier, Ben Eisenhardt and Ryan Gilkey scored 17 points apiece for the Missionaries.
Whitworth 59, Whitman 56: Emily Travis scored 18 points and the Pirates held on late to beat the visiting Missionaries.
The loss was the first for Whitman in Northwest Conference play this season.
Both teams shot well from the free-throw line.
The Pirates (10-4, 3-2) were 21 of 28 while Whitman (11-2, 4-1) connected on 24 of 30.
Sarah Anderegg tallied a team-high 18 points for Whitman.