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Whitworth basketball ready for return to court following COVID-related pause

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 10, 2021

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

After a 10-day shutdown that led to the postponement of four home games, the Whitworth men’s basketball team expects to host Puget Sound on Friday and Saturday in what might be its final games at the Fieldhouse this season.

A positive COVID-19 test on the team Jan. 29 meant its games that weekend against Pacific Lutheran and also the following weekend’s games against Whitman had to be postponed.

“That was disappointing,” Pirates coach Damion Jablonski said of the postponements, “but I’m gonna still work with our administration to see if there’s a way to put a ribbon on the end of the season, whether it’s adding another weekend of games or something like that.”

As of now, the Pirates are scheduled to play the last four of their scheduled Northwest Conference games on the road, with the season wrapping up Feb. 27. The NCAA announced last week that it would not host any Division III winter national championships.

Assuming the Pirates are able to play this weekend, they will do so still without a full roster, as some players are still unavailable either due to injury or COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Still, Jablonski said he is confident that those players who are available will be ready.

“I don’t think the layoff is that big of a deal,” Jablonski said. “A lot of the guys were still able to get outside and do cardio work and stay in shape, so I don’t think we’ve lost a lot in that sense. But it does feel like we’re kind of starting fresh, especially if you have a few bodies that aren’t available.”

The Pirates are 4-3 this season and are ranked eighth in the d3hoops.com poll this week, which is limited to a Top 15 in light of the limited number of Division III programs that have played any games this year. Of those 15, Whitworth is one of only five that has played at least seven times.

Within the NWC, Puget Sound is the only one of the four active programs – the five Oregon schools have not played this season – that has played all its scheduled games.

The Loggers are 1-5, coming off a pair of losses last weekend to the first-place Pacific Lutheran Lutes (4-0).

Whitworth, 2-0 in conference play, is the only NWC team to have played any nonconference games this year.

The Pirates beat the Loggers on Jan. 22 and 23 in Tacoma before being forced into the shutdown.

Friday and Saturday’s men’s games are scheduled to start at 8 p.m. and will follow the women’s games, which will start at 5:30 . Games will be broadcast online at whitworthpirates.com.

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