Whitworth is off to the races again.
Waiting at the finish line, the Pirates expect, will be a 12th consecutive berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
It will be well-earned: Whitworth is 22-3 and ranked fourth in the nation despite returning only one starter and adding 10 new players.
“Looking back at where we started from last spring, I couldn’t be prouder of our guys,” said Pirates coach Matt Logie, now in his seventh year.
“It’s been a rewarding season so far,” Logie said.
More rewards are out there for the chasing. This week’s Northwest Conference playoff field includes two up-tempo teams in Puget Sound and top-ranked Whitman.
The second-seeded Pirates (22-3) may need to beat both to earn the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAAs.
First up is a Thursday night semifinal against visiting Puget Sound, which hung 97 points on the Pirates in the Loggers’ last visit to the Fieldhouse on Jan. 27.
It wasn’t enough. Whitworth scored 111, its highest point total in five years. The Pirates can’t wait for another evening of fast-paced action.
“I really enjoy those kinds of games,” Whitworth guard Kyle Roach said before practice Wednesday afternoon at the Fieldhouse.
“It doesn’t give you a lot of time to think, so we’re free to play a little bit,” Roach said.
UPS (18-6) comes into Thursday’s game on a six-game winning streak. The Loggers led the league in 3-pointers made (12.1 per game) and were second in scoring (96.6 points) and steals (14.2).
Junior guard Jimmy Wohrer is the NWC’s leading scorer this season (22.2 ppg). Sophomore wing Stellen Roberts contributes 10.8 points per game.
The Loggers also are deep, with 12 to 14 seeing action each game.
Should the Pirates get past UPS, they’ll face the winner of the other semifinal between Linfield and host Whitman. If it’s the latter, the Pirates will travel to Walla Walla on Saturday to face another up-tempo squad.
“You definitely need that day off in between,” Roach said.
“It’s tough not to look ahead,” added Roach, who scored 45 points against Whitman on Feb. 6, the second-highest total in school history, but the Pirates lost 100-99.
The Division III bracket will be unveiled on Monday. For the third year in a row, Whitworth may find itself in the same four-team pod with Whitman.
“This team’s body of work speaks for itself,” said Logie, whose team is ranked fourth in the nation but could face Whitman in the second round.
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