Whitworth still has a serious case of the Blues.
Despite a strong shooting night, a superlative game from guard Kyle Roach and a frenzied crowd to cheer their every move, the Pirates are still looking for a cure.
And another shot.
“It doesn’t sting as much as you’d think, because our kids played so hard and so well,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said after a 100-99 Northwest Conference loss Tuesday night to No. 1 Whitman.
Fourth-ranked Whitworth took a one-point lead after Ben College hit a 3-pointer with 14 seconds to play, but that was more than enough time for the Blues’ Tim Howell.
The reigning NWC Player of the Year drove the right side of the lane against Roach, who was called for a blocking foul with nine-tenths of a second left.
Shrugging off a deafening roar from the crowd, Howell hit both foul shots to give the Blues (22-0 overall, 13-0 NWC) their seventh consecutive win over Whitworth.
That was the difference between teams that are locks to make the NCAA Division III tournament field: Whitman was 25 for 34 at the foul line while Whitworth was 11 for 14.
“It’s really difficult to beat somebody that shoots 20 more free throws than you,” said Logie, whose team fell to 19-3, 11-2.
The Pirates are all but certain to get another shot at the Blues, perhaps in the NWC finals in barely two weeks.
“We’re looking for another opportunity,” Logie said.
Roach will be ready. Plagued by foul trouble in the teams’ first meeting – a 91-75 defeat in Walla Walla on Jan. 9 – Roach played every minute in one of the biggest regular-season games in Fieldhouse history.
Hitting 18 of 29 shots, Roach finished with 45 points, the biggest game by a Pirate since 1966.
“Kyle Roach was phenomenal tonight,” Logie said.
The game was devoid of major runs but full of highlights. A behind-the-back dribble from Jared Christy led to a layin that gave the Pirates a 73-71 lead and brought the crowd to its feet.
Whitworth took an 85-79 lead with 9 1/2 minutes left, but that was erased within 30 seconds. Seconds later came the most controversial noncall of the night. Roach stole the ball and was headed for a dunk when he appeared to make contact with a Whitman defender.
No call was made and Whitman gained possession after the ball went out of bounds.
Roach made a three-point play to break an 87-all tie with less than 7 minutes left.
The Pirates twice missed 3-point shots that would have given them a six-point lead. Instead, Whitman regained a 91-90 advantage with less than 5 minutes left.
Down by two after a miss by Roach, the Pirates forced a turnover that led to College’s 3-point shot.
The trend was set early. Five minutes into the game, Whitworth was 7 for 9 from the field and 3 for 5 from beyond the arc, yet led only 17-13.
Whitworth seized the momentum with a 3-pointer and a layup from point guard Garrett Hull, and took its first double-digit lead on a floater from Roach.
Eight minutes into the game, Whitworth seemed poised to take control. The Pirates led 26-15, getting a dozen points each from Roach and Hull and forcing five turnovers. They also were shooting a blistering 69 percent from the field.
To that point, Whitman – the national steals leader with 16 per game – had forced just two Pirates turnovers. The Blues forced eight more over the next 10 minutes to fuel a late first-half rally.
Twice Whitman took the lead late in the half, but Hull’s 3-pointer gave the Pirates a 57-54 halftime lead.
That lead probably should have been bigger, as the Pirates shot 62 percent from the field to Whitman’s 46 percent. But the Pirates turned the ball over nine times and got zero points from their bench.
Roach had 27 first-half points and Hull had 15, along with four steals.
Whitworth shot 56.5 percent for the game but committed 21 turnovers.
Howell led the Blues with 27 points.
Whitman 83, Whitworth 49: Casey Poe scored 23 points, shooting 11 of 14 from the field, and the fifth-ranked Blues (21-1, 13-0 NWC) opened the game with a 10-0 run and cruised past the host Pirates (9-13, 4-9).
Makana Stone added 14 rebounds and 10 points for the Blues, and Maegen Martin came off the bench to score 13.
Camy Aguinaldo hit three 3-pointers and scored 22 points for the Pirates.
Whitman outrebounded Whitworth 46-29. The Blues shot 51 percent from the field while the Pirates were 17 for 53 (32 percent).