Pirates enter NWC Tournament as No. 1 seed for the third straight season
by Corina Gebbers
For the third year in a row, the Whitworth men’s basketball team is headed into the Northwest Conference Tournament as the No. 1 seed. The Bucs finished 15-1 in conference action after wins against Whitman College and Willamette University last week.
“A lot of the credit goes to our key returning players and the leadership from the guys who have experienced a lot of success,” head coach Matt Logie said. “[They] have kept our identity and our expectation levels high.”
On Tuesday night senior forward Idris Lasisi scored a career-high 27 points, leading the Pirates to an 81-74 victory over the host Whitman Missionaries.
“They were the only team that beat us in the conference so far,” Lasisi said. “I felt like we had something to settle, [so] I tried to be more aggressive and happened to have a good night.”
Three quick Whitworth treys gave the Pirates an early lead, but Whitman rallied and went on an 11-0 run. With just under six minutes to play in the first half, Whitworth regained momentum and took a 38-36 lead into the locker room.
“We started off a little bit hesitant,” Lasisi said. “But after we settled down we had poise, while being aggressive.”
A trey by sophomore guard Dustin McConnell sparked a run for the Bucs to start the second half and Whitworth held the lead the rest of the game. The Missionaries stayed close and rallied with just over a minute to play, but Lasisi answered for the Pirates with a 3-point basket that shut down the Missionaries’ hope for victory.
Lasisi led all scorers with 27 points, while tacking on five assists and pulling down six rebounds.
McConnell finished with 14 points and junior guard Wade Gebbers contributed 11 points. Senior forward Jack Loofburrow and junior forward Mack Larkin added 10 points apiece.
“We’ve peaked at the right time,” Lasisi said. “We’ve been playing our best basketball and this keeps adding to our confidence.”
Whitworth wrapped up regular season action at home on Saturday night against Willamette. Before the game, seniors Felix Friedt, Michael Taylor, Lasisi and Loofburrow were honored for Senior Night.
“It’s been a privilege playing here for four years,” Friedt said. “It went by too fast.”
Friedt scored the first points of the game off a three- point play designed for him and went on to score a career-high 29 points to lead his team to a 93-65 win over the Bearcats.
It wasn’t until just seven minutes remained in the first half when Whitworth really found a rhythm. A Friedt lay-in began an 8-0 run for the Pirates, who went up 31-23 off a fast break bucket by Larkin. Willamette answered with a 5-0 run of its own, but a 3-point play for Friedt and bucket by McConnell put the Pirates up 40-32 at half.
“There was a time when we weren’t taking pride in getting stops,” Taylor said. “We knew if we got defensive stops then offense would take care of itself.”
Friedt scored six consecutive points, and Loofbur- row hit a trey to rally the Bucs early in the second half. Willamette fought for another 5-0 run with 12 minutes remaining, but a 3-point basket by Lasisi shut down the Bearcats’ momentum. It was all Whitworth from there, and the Pirates steadily ran away with the win.
“In the second half we definitely picked it up,” Friedt said. “We had good inside-outside attacks.”
Friedt led all players with 29 points while pulling down 13 rebounds; Loofburrow added 18 points, Lasisi and McConnell finished with 12 points apiece and Larkin contributed 10 points. Overall the Pirates shot 52.9 percent from the field and out-rebounded their opponents 45-29.
“When we set out at the beginning of the season we knew we wanted to win the conference,” Taylor said. “We’re taking our goals one at a time and this is the first one.”
The Pirates will host the first round of the NWC Championships against Lewis & Clark College on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.
Contact Corina Gebbers at email@example.com.