by Andrew Forhan
Top-ranked Whitworth men’s basketball team defeated the Chapman Panthers 77-63 in front of a capacity crowd of 2,110 on Saturday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse and stamped their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen. Junior post Felix Friedt led all scorers with 23 points, and NWC MVP Michael Taylor added 21 in the NCAA Division III tournament second round contest.
The Pirates jumped out to an 11-3 lead to start the game and never looked back. Chapman found itself down by as many as 23 points during the course of the game. Taylor scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half, sparking the Bucs to a 40-27 halftime advantage and a standing ovation from the home crowd as the players ran into the locker room.
“I thought we rode Michael in the first half and Felix in the second; anyone could see that,” Coach Jim Hayford said. “But, really, what won the game was our defense.”
The German-born Friedt had the hot hand in the second half, scoring 15 of his 23 points after halftime while battling physically in the paint all game with the Chapman post players. He also pulled down 13 rebounds for a double-double, and secured nine of Whitworth’s 13 defensive rebounds in the first half.
“I love playing a physical team,” Friedt said.
Taylor also had the daunting task of guarding Chapman’s top scorer, Justin Riley, a 6-foot-8-inch senior averaging 16.1 points per game. Taylor held Riley to 10 points, earning praise from Hayford during the post-game press conference. Bucs sophomore Wade Gebbers held the Panthers’ Griffin Ramme, who averages 16 points per game, without a field goal, in addition to taking multiple charging fouls. The Pirates also forced the Panthers into several shot clock violation turnovers with strong team defense.
The Whitworth offense was consistent throughout the night, thanks in part to three different four-point plays. Taylor, Gebbers and Riley each were fouled during three-point attempts, and each pzlayer made the attempted three as well as the additional free throw. These plays sparked roars from the blacked-out student section and contributed to the fact that Whitworth maintained a double-digit lead after a run late in the first half to break away in a 34-27 game.
Overall, Whitworth shot 11-25 from behind the arc. With the 11 three’s made during the game, the Pirates set a single-season record for team three-pointers in a season. The previous record was 284, and the Bucs were able to surpass that record this year in one less game than the season that the previous record was set. The record now currently stands at 288 treys, and will inevitably increase with four more potential games left in the tournament for the Pirates.
Like last year, Whitworth will play its Sweet Sixteen game on the road following a win against Chapman in its final game in Spokane. Last year, the Bucs eliminated the Panthers with a 77-53 victory before falling to Eastern Mennonite in the round of 16.
This year, the Division III men’s basketball tournament saw the list of teams go from 61 to 16 in approximately 30 hours time. With the Pirates’ win following the first round bye, Whitworth advances to play 11th-ranked Marietta University in the Sweet Sixteen on Friday, March 11 at 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). The game will be played at Wooster College in Wooster, Ohio.