Whitworth to Host Whitman in NWC Men's Final
SPOKANE, Wash. –Whitworth University will play in the Northwest Conference tournament championship game for the eighth year in a row on Saturday night. The 8th-ranked Pirates and Whitman College will tip off at 7:00 pm. The game will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the web at KSBN.net.
Live links to Saturday's game can be found here:
NWC Tournament Info: Whitworth and Whitman reached Saturday's game by winning semifinal contests on Thursday. The Pirates defeated Lewis & Clark 74-69 while the Missionaries topped visiting George Fox 90-78. As the top seed in the tournament, Whitworth clinched the right to host Saturday night's championship final. Ticket prices for Saturday's game at the Whitworth Fieldhouse are $10 for adults and $5 for children and senior adults. Students from participating schools get in for free with valid student I.D. All tickets are general admission and will only be available at the door. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
NWC Tournament History: This is the 17th conference tournament since the NWC (then the NCIC) first began a league playoff following the 1993-94 season. Whitworth has competed in 16 of those tournaments, one ahead of Lewis & Clark for the conference's all-time lead. The Pirates are 16-7 all-time in the league playoffs and have won the last 11 tournament games in which they have played. The Bucs have now appeared in the championship game 11 times and have won eight times: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 1996. The league did not hold a tournament in 1999, 2004 and 2005. The only season the Pirates did not qualify is 2000.
The Pirates: Whitworth earned a 74-69 win over Lewis & Clark in the NWC semifinals on Thursday night. The Pirates controlled most of the first half, leading by as many as 12 points at 27-15. But the Pioneers closed to within 34-28 at the break. Lewis & Clark then opened the second half on a 14-5 run to take its first lead of the game at 42-39. But Whitworth responded with a 12-1 run over the next four minutes and never trailed again. Wade Gebbers hit six three-pointers and scored a game-high 22 points for the Pirates. George Valle added 16 points and Colton McCargar came off of the bench for 14 points. Dustin McConnell finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Whitworth made 48% (28-58) of its shots from the field, 52% (13-25) from three-point range. The Pirates extended their current winning streak over the Pioneers to twelve.
All-NWC Honors: Northwest Conference coaches recognized four Whitworth players with All-Conference honors this year. Wade Gebbers and Dustin McConnell were each selected to the All-NWC First Team. Gebbers was a Second Team honoree last year. Colton McCargar earned Second Team recognition this season and Taylor Farnsworth received Honorable Mention consideration.
The Opponents: Whitman is 19-8 and has reached the NWC Tournament championship game for the second time in three seasons. The Missionaries finished second in the NWC standings with a 12-4 record this year. They average 90.5 points per game, which leads the NWC and ranks third in NCAA Division III. Utilizing a high-pressure defense, they have forced opponents into 22.3 turnovers per game in 2012-13.
Head coach Eric Bridgeland is in his fifth season and has completely turned the fortunes of the Whitman men's basketball team. Junior center Ben Eisenhardt was voted by NWC coaches as the 2013 Player of the Year. He has averaged 16.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Senior guard Josh Duckworth is All-NWC Second Team with averages of 14.2 points, 2.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Sophomore forward Matt Mounier adds 14.5 points per game, makes 38% of his three-point attempts and received All-NWC honorable mention.
Whitworth and Whitman split their two regular season meetings this season and both went to overtime. The Pirates came from behind in regulation to earn a 112-100 victory in double overtime in Spokane on January 8th. The Missionaries rallied from nine points down in the second half of the rematch to win 93-90 in one overtime in Walla Walla on February 5th.
National Raking: Bouncing back with two road wins last week, Whitworth jumped from 12th to 8th in this week's D3hoops.com top-25 poll. Going back to the 2009-10 season, Whitworth has been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 48 consecutive polls.
NWC Title: Whitworth clinched its fourth straight undisputed NWC championship with last Friday's win at Linfield. The conference championship is the Pirates' fourth in a row and sixth in the last seven years. Whitworth has now won a total of 15 Northwest Conference titles in men's basketball (since rejoining the league in 1982). Only three times in the league's history has a team won/shared four straight conference crowns: Willamette (1987-90, two shared); Willamette (1949-52, two shared) and Whitman (1927-30). No NWC school has ever won five straight men's basketball championships.
NWC Leaders: Whitworth leads the Northwest Conference, or ranks second, this season in several team statistical categories. To the Pirates' credit, those statistical rankings come on both ends of the floor. They include:
2nd – Points per game: 78.8
1st - Team FG%: 51.1
1st – Team 3pt%: 38.3
1st - Team FT%: 74.5
2nd – Rebound Margin: +2.7
2nd – Assists per game: 13.3
1st – Turnovers per game: 11.6
1st – Fewest Fouls Per Game: 14.4
2nd - Defensive Points Per Game: 66.2
2nd - Opponent FG%: 42.5
Efficiency is the key: Whitworth ranks dead last in the Northwest Conference in average number of field goals attempted per game (55.6). But the Pirates rank second in field goals made per contest (28.5). Those two numbers lead to Whitworth's NWC-best team field goal percentage of 51.1, which leads the league by almost six percentage points over second place.
Total Team Effort: Whitworth currently has a 23-3 record and ranks highly in many NWC team statistical categories. This all comes despite the fact that the Pirates do not have a player crack the top 10 individually in scoring and rebounding. Dustin McConnell currently ranks 11th in the NWC in points per game, while Taylor Farnsworth ranks 12th in rebounds per contest. More telling to the Pirates' success is the fact that Wade Gebbers ranks second in the NWC in assists per game and McConnell ranks third.
Back on KSBN: Local radio station KSBN (1230am) will carry all remaining regular season Pirate games, and any post-season contests. The relationship between Pirate athletics and KSBN goes back to 1994, a span of almost 20 years. Bob Castle, whose voice has become synonymous with Whitworth athletics on the radio, is back as the voice of the Pirates in 2012-13. Bob has called Whitworth games for the past 12 seasons, as well as in 1997-98. Bob has 20 years in radio and his experience as a sports broadcaster includes stints as the voice of Spokane Indians Baseball, Gonzaga University baseball and Washington State women's basketball.
Team Captains: The members of the Whitworth basketball team and coaching staff have voted Wade Gebbers, Mack Larkin and Zach Payne as team captains for the 2012-13 season. It is the second season in a row that Gebbers has been voted as a team captain.
Ten Again and Twenty Thrice: The Dec 31st win over Hamline was the Pirates' tenth victory in a row this season. It marks the fourth consecutive year that Whitworth has put together a winning streak of at least 10 in a row. The subsequent streak of 20 wins in a row ranks as the third-longest all-time at Whitworth and marks the third time in the last four years that the Bucs have reached 20 straight. Last year the Pirates won 13 straight games late in the season. In 2010-11 the team won its first 23 in a row to ascend to the #1 ranking in Division III basketball. And in 2009-10 the Bucs put together a school-record 25 game winning streak. Whitworth has only had five other seasons in its history with winning streaks of at least ten: 2006-07 (13 in a row); 2002-03 (12 in a row); 1995-96 (13 in a row); 1991-92 (10 in a row); 1989-90 (11 in a row).
20-Eight is Great: With the February 2nd win over Pacific, Whitworth extended its school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories to eight in a row. Prior to this current streak, the most 20-win seasons in a row the Pirates had ever had was two (on three different occasions).
Rolling On: The Pirates have won 102 of their last 112 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level. Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 67 of its last 71 – including the seven wins from the last four NWC tournaments.
Home-Sweet-Home: Whitworth has been stellar in the Fieldhouse throughout the 1990's and 2000's. Since the 2001-02 season the Pirates are 125-14 (.899) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 92-7 (.929) at home. During the decade of the 1990s the Pirates won more than 80% of their games played at home.
The Pirates have had two home-court winning streaks of more than 40 games since 1990. A 41-game home court winning streak from early 2009 until December of 2011 was the second-longest in Pirate history. The school record for consecutive home victories is 43, beginning during the 1994-95 season and ending during the 1997-98 season.
Road Warriors: As good as Whitworth is at home, the Pirates have been even better away from the Whitworth Fieldhouse in the last four seasons. Since the start of the 09-10 schedule, Whitworth is 49-8 away from home, 35-3 in true road games.
Wade Leading the Way: Point guard Wade Gebbers is the heart that drives the Pirate engine on the basketball floor. He has battled through persistent injuries this season to average 11.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, earning First Team All-NWC honors. He also ranks second in the NWC in assists per contest (3.2) this season. He scored a career-high 27 points at Whitman on February 5th and had 23 points in the season-opener against now top-ranked St. Thomas. On Thursday he became the 23rd player in Whitworth history to surpass 1,000-career points and now has 1,016.
Gebbers earned Second Team All-Northwest Conference last season after averaging 12.8 points per game. He led the team in assists per game (3.5), which ranked third in the NWC. Gebbers led the league in three-pointers made per game (2.8) and ranked third in the league in three-point percentage (42.1). He scored what was a career-high 26 points on January 17th against Whitman.
In 2010-11 Gebbers averaged 3.35 assists per game (5th in the NWC) and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.07 - 1 was third highest in the league. He scored a season-high 20 points on Feb. 12, 2011 against George Fox, all in the second half, to lead Whitworth back from a three-point halftime deficit to an 89-66 win.
The Glue Guy: Successful Whitworth teams have always had the unsung hero who does all the little things that help the team succeed, but don't always show up in the box scores. Now Mack Larkin has stepped into that role. On defense Larkin is most often tasked with guarding the opponent's best offensive player. On offense this season he has averaged 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while making 51% of his shots from the field and 38% from three-point range. He scored a career-high 17 points in the win over Simpson on December 22nd.
Last season he averaged 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds with 39 assists and 19 steals, despite missing four games in early January after suffering a mild concussion in practice.
Driving Mr. Dusty: Dustin McConnell is dangerous from three-point range, making 44% of his shots from beyond the arc this season, which currently ranks third in the NWC. But he is even harder on opposing defenses with his hard drives to the basket, often getting the shot to go down while drawing a foul. This season he is averaging a team-best 13.7 points and adding 3.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, garnering First Team All-NWC honors. He had a career-high 24 points in Whitworth's win over Whitman on January 8th and had 23 points in the win over Willamette (Jan. 18th).
He ended up with a 7.7 scoring average last winter after taking over as a starter eight games into the season. He made 38% of his attempts from three-point range.
Mr. Reliable: Colton McCargar does everything asked of him, whether he is in the starting lineup or the first player off of the bench. He is averaging 11.8 points and adds 4.0 rebounds per game and was selected Second Team All-NWC despite starting only three games this season. He is making almost 44% of his three-point tries so far this season, which leads the team and is tied for third in the NWC. He surpassed his career-high with 20 points in the win at Willamette on February 16th. He also had 19 points in the win over Whitman (Jan. 8) and had 18 points in the wins over Puget Sound (Dec. 8) and Lewis & Clark (Jan. 5).
Frosh Phenom: George Valle has already made a huge impact in his first season with the Pirates. He is second on the team in scoring average (12.5 ppg) and has made 52% of his shots from the field. He has already been selected as a Northwest Conference Student-Athlete of the Week in men's basketball (Dec. 4). His career-high is 30 points in the win over Linfield on Feb. 15th and he scored 23 points in the win at Montana Tech at the end of November. He scored the game-winning basket and free throw at George Fox on January 11th.
Block Party: Taylor Farnsworth has grown into his role as the Pirates' starting post player this season and leads the team by a wide margin in blocked shots (20). His season averages are up to 10.4 ppg and 5.2 rpg, which leads the team. He is making 60% of his shots from the field, which currently ranks second in the Northwest Conference and he received honorable mention consideration on the 2013 All-NWC Team. He scored a career-high 29 points in the win at Pacific (Jan. 4).
Coming up Next: If Whitworth defeats Whitman then the Pirates will receive the NWC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament. That field will be announced at 9:30 am on Monday morning.
The Coach: Matt Logie led Whitworth to a 26-4 record in 2011-12, his first season as coach of the Pirates. He was also selected as the NWC Coach of the Year by his peers after directing the Pirates to a 15-1 conference mark and their sixth straight NWC tournament championship.
Logie previously worked eight seasons as an assistant coach at Lehigh University (Pa.) his alma-mater. He also spent a season as an assistant coach at Kent State. In 2010 Logie was named as the top Patriot League Assistant Coach in men's basketball in a Foxsports.com Coaches Poll and in 2011 he was recognized as one of the top 50 assistants in Mid-to-Low Major college basketball by Hoopscoop on-line magazine. Logie is originally from Mercer Island, Washington where he won a pair of state basketball championships while playing for his grandfather, Ed Pepple, a legend in Washington's high school ranks who won 952 games and four state titles in 49 years of coaching.