At the end of a crazy week, the Whitworth players kept their composure.
Going forward, that might be worth as much as any win, though the Pirates would have taken one over top-ranked Whitman last week.
Whitworth lost that one by a single point on Feb. 6 in a packed Fieldhouse, then gutted out an overtime win four days later at George Fox.
“It was a great environment – I thought our guys left it all on the floor,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said this week of the Whitman game. “I think it proved that we can play with anybody in the country.”
The game against a well-rested George Fox team “was all about toughness and perseverance against a team that had all week to prepare, but we hung in there,” Logie said.
The pollsters noticed, keeping the Pirates at No. 4 in this week’s Division III poll going into the final week of the regular season.
Whitworth (20-3 overall and 12-2 in the Northwest Conference) hosts third-place Linfield on Friday night and Willamette on Saturday.
The Pirates need one win or one Linfield loss to earn a home berth in next week’s NWC semifinals.
Whitworth, a 20-game winner for the 13th season in a row, is all but assured of at least an at-large bid to the DIII tournament. The field will be announced on Feb. 26.
The Pirates are hitting their offensive stride as the right time. Guard Kyle Roach scored 45 points against Whitman, the highest single-game total by a Pirate since 1966.
Guard Garrett Hull scored a career-high 24 points in the win at George Fox.
Linfield (16-6, 10-6) is alone in third place and coming off an 84-54 win over Lewis & Clark. The Wildcats lead the conference in the two biggest defensive categories: points given up (65.5) and field-goal defense (40.3 percent).
Freshman guard Dempsey Roggenbuck leads a balanced Linfield lineup with 11.8 points per game.
Senior center Jordan Clark adds 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Junior guard Riley Bruil scores 9.5 ppg and makes an NWC-best 46 percent of his 3-point shots.
“They play very good defense and they’re a physical team,” said Logie, whose club rallied in the second half for a 63-55 win at Linfield on Jan. 20.
In Saturday’s regular-season finale, the Pirates will host a Willamette team that’s coming off back-to-back wins over Pacific and Pacific Lutheran. The Bearcats (11-12, 6-8) own a plus-5.6 rebounding margin in conference games.
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