by Matt Spencer | Staff Writer
In the Northwest Conference semifinal, fourth-ranked Whitworth defeated Linfield 76-64 on Thursday night. The Pirates’ victory propelled them toward an opportunity for redemption as Whitworth heads to Walla Walla to face Whitman for the third time this season.
Linfield presented a potential challenge to Whitworth after playing the Bucs close earlier in the season. Linfield played with two centers in the starting lineup, Matt Woods and Mason Rodby, and two dynamic scorers, Kyle Maloof and Riley Bruil. Whitworth head coach Matt Logie described the Wildcat squad as a physical challenge against a Pirate team that starts four perimeter players.
Defensively, Whitworth held Linfield to 36.7 percent shooting from the field including a two for 14 mark from the three-point line. Despite strong play by second Team All-NWC selection Kyle Maloof (23 points), a run late in the first half gave the Pirates a lead they went on to maintain for the last 26 minutes of action.
Whitworth got great offensive production from Kyle Roach, ‘19, who put up 21 points including nine of 11 attempts from the free throw line. Roach was not the only Pirate to benefit from the charity stripe, Whitworth collectively went 25 for 31 (80.6 percent). As the Wildcats closed the gap late in the second half, Whitworth sunk nine of 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Most importantly, the Pirates matched Linfield’s physicality on the boards while playing the center position by committee. Early fouls to seven-foot center Drew Sears, ‘17, provided added minutes for both Ben Bishop, ‘19, and Benjamin Nick, ‘20, who also had three fouls apiece. Despite foul trouble, Whitworth won the rebounding battle against the Wildcats 34-30.
Kenny Love, ‘17, lead all Pirates in rebounding grabbing eight boards in the game. It was Love’s fourth consecutive game with seven rebounds or more.
“I have really been trying to help the team in other areas outside of scoring,” Love said. “This includes controlling the flow of the game for us on the offensive end.”
The win matches Whitworth up with their Eastern Washington rival, the Whitman Blues, for the Northwest Conference championship. In the first two matchups, Whitman was able to jump out to early leads while playing tough defense. Whitman will host the matchup in Walla Walla this Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in the Sherwood Athletic Center.
Contact Matt Spencer at email@example.com