Saturday evening was a good night to be a Whitworth Pirate.
The Whitworth men’s team rallied to retake the lead with under a minute to go and senior guard Colton McCargar iced it with free throws to beat Puget Sound 71-68 in the final of the Northwest Conference Tournament.
Only moments later, the Whitworth women’s basketball team pulled a huge upset and beat previously undefeated and No. 1 Whitman College 68-65 in Walla Walla.
Both Pirates teams earned automatic berths in the upcoming Division III NCAA tourney.
“I was proud of how our guys hung in there,” coach Matt Logie said. “Ultimately, our seniors brought us home.”
The Pirates held the lead for most of the game. But the Loggers kept chopping away at the deficit until junior guard James Osorio hit a 3-pointer with 3:14 left.
The shot put UPS ahead 66-65, which was the Loggers’ first lead since the opening bucket of the game. Osorio followed it up with another jumper with 2:32 left and it looked like the Loggers might pull off the upset.
But Whitworth senior guard Dustin McConnell, the Northwest Conference Player of the Year, hit a layup and McCargar hit a jumper to retake the lead at 69-68 with 53 seconds remaining.
Puget Sound guard Erin Barber, who led the Loggers with 15 points, missed a 3 and the Pirates controlled the rebound. McCargar was fouled and went to the line with the pressure of a season on his shoulders.
McCargar, who led all scorers with 25 points, nailed them both as the crowd exploded.
Down 71-68 with 14 seconds left, Puget Sound had one more chance but Barber’s 3-pointer rattled off the iron.
The players then ran up into the stands and danced with students as they all cheered.
“You’ve got to give UPS a ton of credit. They scrapped and battled,” Logie said. “Our guys had to earn it. We didn’t want to put (tournament selection) in anybody else’s hands.”
This win marks the eighth-straight Northwest Conference Tournament title for the Pirates.
“It was a tough battle but I was proud of how our guys stepped up,” said McConnell, who had 15 points and 6 rebounds.
“It is a great way to end a senior season.”
“It was a little stressful giving up the lead,” McCargar said. “But the only option is to fight back. And we were able to do it.”