by Kara Need | Sports Editor
The Pirates became NWC Champions after beating Whitman 91-88 on Saturday night in Walla Walla. After losing to Whitman twice this season, a buzzer beater from Kyle Roach, ‘19, sealed the win for the Pirates and granted them the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Whitworth started the game strong and within the first three minutes had a nine point lead over Whitman. Although Whitman struggled to get rebounds in the first half, the game was tied 46-46 at the half.
Early in the second half, Whitworth struggled to keep control of the ball. Whitman capitalized on a few Whitworth turnovers and built an 11 point lead over the pirates. However, with about 13 left to go in the game, the momentum began to switch. Back to back threes by Garrett Hull, ’19, from the right corner closed the gap to tie it up again, 67-67.
The game remained close until the very end. With less than three minutes to go, Jared Christy ‘18, picked up his fourth foul, sending Whitman to the line to put the Pirates down 86-82. On the other end of the floor, Whitman sent Roach to the line to close the gap to two. In the following play, Hull managed to get two to tie up the game, but Whitman quickly followed with two of their own, making the score 88-86 Whitman. With less than two minutes to go, Hull grabbed a crucial defensive rebound to keep it a two point game.
On the other end of the floor, the Pirates worked the ball around and after two missed shots and two offensive rebounds, Isaiah Hernandez tied up the game for the Pirates with just 24 seconds left. Whitman drove to the other end, but was called for a travel, giving Whitworth the ball with just two seconds to go.
At the restart, the Pirates got the ball to Roach, who fired a long three that hit the mark to seal the Championship for the Pirates 91-88.
“Making that last shot was amazing, it’s the play all athletes dream of making as they grow up,” Roach said.
Roach has been named NWC player of the year for the 2017-18 season and ended this game with 23 points. Ben College, ’20, was the high scorer of the game, tallying 24 points. Garrett Hull was essential for the Pirates on the board, ending the game with 11 rebounds and 15 points. Isaiah Hernandez was also a stand out for the Pirates, coming off the bench to get seven points and three assists.
“Whitman is a really talented team” Roach said, “So we knew the game was going to be a fight.”
Both teams ended up shooting 50 percent from the floor and there was a total of 16 lead changes throughout the game.
“Our guys have no quit in them, so when we went down, and our backs were against the wall we just worked our way out of it,” Roach said. “It was a pretty special moment, and I couldn’t be happier for all my teammates and the fans that we were able to bring the NWC trophy back home.”
The Pirates will move on to the NCAA tournament and will learn their schedule on Monday morning.