Warming the bench never felt this good.
Not that it stays warm for long, the seat Colton McCargar leaves behind before he puts the heat on another team at Whitworth Fieldhouse.
McCargar put on another benchmark performance last week in the first round of the Division III basketball tournament, scoring a career-high 21 points to lead Whitworth to a 75-69 win over Redlands of California. His jump shot with less than a minute remaining gave the Pirates a five-point lead and sent them on to a second-round matchup Saturday against Emory of Atlanta.
“I think it’s that even though I’m not starting, I’m a guy who the coach is going to want in at the end of games,” said McCargar, a junior 6-foot-1 guard who also makes a difference in the beginning and the middle.
After 28 games, McCargar ranks second in scoring at 12.3 points per game, third in rebounds (4.1 rpg) and fourth in minutes played (27.2). In the Pirates’ last four games, he has played 31½ minutes per game while averaging a team-high 17.5 points and hitting 26 of 50 field-goal attempts, including 9 of 19 from 3-point range.
“Colton is our sixth starter,” second-year coach Matt Logie said. “We wanted to have a scoring punch off the bench and he’s been able to provide that with instant offense as well as being there late in the game to make clutch baskets.”
McCargar was doing that in high school in Richland, leading the Bombers to a district title before pondering his future. That didn’t take long; McCargar got looks from from several Northwest Conference schools, but said “Whitworth was always the leader, with the fan support and the good tradition of winning.
“To be honest, it was Whitworth all the way.”
Once at Whitworth, McCargar, a business major, honed his skills against the likes of past stars such as Michael Taylor, Jack Loofburrow, David Riley and others on what may have been previous Pirates coach Jim Hayford’s best team, a 28-2 squad that finished in the Elite Eight in 2011.
“There’s nothing like it, going against those guys, and it gives you the confidence that you can do it,” McCargar said.
After Hayford took the job at Eastern Washington, new coach Logie saw a player in McCargar who spent much of last year “breaking through that wall – not so much confidence barriers, but having been in the moment and performing, looking back, and saying to himself that he could compete.”
As a sophomore, McCargar’s role steadily grew through the season. He averaged 4.7 points per game while averaging better than 15 minutes per game as the Pirates reached the Sweet 16 and finished 26-4.
After what Logie termed a “great” offseason, he added that McCargar came into the season “with the mentality that he was going to be an impact performer.”
And despite starting only three games (when starter Wade Gebbers was injured) McCargar was named the All-Northwest Conference second team.
“We’re really proud of his growth this year and his confidence level,” Logie said. “He’s definitely a guy that teams have to key on.”
Normally division championships are celebrated with champagne showers in the locker room. The Spokane Indians settled for cheering and high fives on a crowded bus.
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