With 103 seconds left in the Whitworth Pirates’ 86-60 victory over the Lewis & Clark Pioneers on Saturday, Whitworth’s assistants flashed a look toward coach Damion Jablonski.
The head coach gave a wry smile right back.
The Pioneers had just scored a basket for their 58th and 59th points of the game with a free throw to follow. James Hodge-Green finished the three-point play, and the Pioneers had point No. 60.
Right on the cusp.
When the Pioneers missed two free throws with 39 seconds left, and then a 3-pointer 23 seconds later, Jablonski’s fate was sealed: He will be running sprints in practice again this week.
“That is definitely what’s happening,” sophomore JT McDermott said of the sprints. “We kept them right at 60 today, thankfully. That was big for us that they missed both of (those free throws).”
A year after the Pioneers nearly beat the Pirates at the Fieldhouse, there was no threat of the upset again this year. Not after Whitworth (10-3, 4-0 Northwest Conference) used an 18-0 run in the first half to create a safe distance from Lewis & Clark (5-8, 1-3).
Whenever the Pirates hold an opponent to 60 points or fewer, something they’ve done now five times this season (but only twice all of last year), Jablonski has to run sprints at his next convenience. He had already run earlier Saturday to pay up for Whitworth’s 97-56 victory over Willamette on Friday.
“I’ll probably do it on Monday. Coach’s rule, so it’s when I feel like I can make it,” Jablonski said. “Because it feels like you ran a 400-meter dash when you’re done.”
For the fourth consecutive game, all of them at home against NWC opponents, the Pirates looked dominant. But they dominated in a particularly new way, grabbing a season-high 18 offensive rebounds and attempting 14 more shots than the Pioneers.
“It was a point of emphasis on our offense,” Jablonski said of getting offensive rebounds. “I think that helped us with our transition defense, actually, because we’ve got guys that are intent and intense and so if we can get some extra possessions it keeps (the opponent) from running.”
Ben College’s 25 points were a point above his season average – he had 14 in the first 9 minutes of the game – and fellow starters Garrett Hull and Reed Brown each chipped in 10.
But it was McDermott’s turn to shine off the bench, a place that has during this homestand provided a variety of key contributors.
McDermott had a career-high 14 points and added 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. He played 19 minutes, more than the starter Brown, who was saddled with foul trouble much of the night.
Whitworth finished 21 of 27 from the free-throw line and shot 42.6% from the field. The Pioneers shot 35.2% from the floor.
The Pirates, tied with 4-0 teams Linfield and Whitman atop the NWC standings, will play their first conference road games of the season next weekend, at George Fox and Pacific. The week after that they will host Whitman (Jan. 21) and Linfield (Jan. 24).
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