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Whitworth still seeking first victory after double-overtime loss to College of Idaho

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 7, 2021

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

The two losses at the Fieldhouse this week likely won’t impact the Whitworth men’s basketball team’s postseason chances.

If there is a Division III Tournament later this season, a conference championship may just be the only way into it.

Yet it still stung the Pirates to lose again on Thursday to the visiting College of Idaho Coyotes 92-91 in double overtime, despite playing a much more complete game than they did the night before.

“So much that we can learn from,” said senior Tanner Fogle, who came off the bench and scored 10 points for the Pirates. “Obviously, it sucks to lose, but it’s another moment to learn from.”

Freshman Jake O’Neil sank a shot in the lane with 3.8 seconds left in the second overtime to give the Coyotes the lead.

Liam Fitzgerald’s desperate 3-point attempt from the left wing before the buzzer never reached the basket.

It was the second night in a row that the Pirates couldn’t get a clear shot to tie or win the game.

O’Neil’s basket capped a wild second overtime in which the Coyotes fell into a six-point hole only to quickly crawl out of it after Whitworth went turnover, missed shot, turnover, turnover on four consecutive possessions.

That came after starting point guard Rowan Anderson fouled out late in the first overtime. He had 11 points, four assists and three of the Pirates’ 14 turnovers.

The Coyotes’ trio of O’Neil, junior Jalen Galloway and senior Ricardo Time combined for 67 points and 31 of the team’s 45 rebounds.

For the Pirates, senior Miguel Lopez scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his first double-double with the team. Junior Garrett Paxton added 18 points and a career-high seven rebounds.

After dominating the first half on Wednesday only to see its lead evaporate gradually, Whitworth trailed most the way on Thursday.

But the Coyotes (4-6) and the Pirates (0-2) couldn’t pull away.

The largest lead of the game was an early eight-point edge for the Coyotes.

“I think what was different was adjusting,” Lopez said. “We prepared for a zone defense and they threw man and the press at us (on Wednesday). We slowed down tonight, and it helped us big time.”

Fitzgerald had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a pair of alley-oop finishes from JT McDermott passes, as well as two steal-and-score dunks he took all the way from midcourt.

Still without seniors Jordan Lester, Isaiah Hernandez and Chewy Zevenbergen, the Pirates played mostly a seven-man rotation.

“In general, this was a great game for us to figure out how to utilize some different people together,” Pirates coach Damion Jablonski said.

“I feel really proud. That was a heck of a contest,” Jablonski said. “I think we came together really well as a team. Again, I hate losing, but it was a positive experience for our team.”

College of Idaho won its NAIA Cascade Collegiate Conference with a 20-0 record a year ago (30-3 overall) and has been ranked No. 1 overall at some point in the NAIA poll each of the past two seasons.

“In general,” Jablonski said, “I thought, this was the first game we executed our offense with good spacing and good flow and so that’s why it was such a growth game.”

Whitworth will visit Montana in Missoula on Saturday, followed by a scheduled trip to play two games against D-II Seattle Pacific next week. After that, it will open Northwest Conference play at Puget Sound on Jan. 22 and 23.

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