LAS VEGAS – Jordan Lester's layup with 1.2 seconds to play lifted 9th-ranked Whitworth to a dramatic 76-74 win over Johns Hopkins at the D3hoops.com Classic on Saturday afternoon.
The Pirates (9-1) rallied from a 74-71 deficit with less than a minute to play after Lester stole the ball near midcourt and fired a no-look pass backwards over his head to Ben College, who drilled a three-pointer to tie the game with 25 seconds to play.
The Blue Jays (8-4) had a chance to take a game-winning shot, but Michael Gardner's jumpshot with 10 seconds to play was no good. Lester grabbed the rebound and worked the ball up the court. When he found no one open, Lester drove and his finger roll bounced twice off the rim before falling through.
JHU had a shot from just beyond midcourt hit the front iron before bouncing off as time expired.
Kyle Roach scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. He was the team's leader in both categories and the rebound total is a career-high.
The first half featured several swings in momentum. The Blue Jays used an 8-0 run to take an 18-13 lead after Gardner hit a three-pointer. The Pirates responded with an 11-0 run to go up 24-18 on Lester's basket. JHU answered right back with a 9-0 spurt to go ahead 27-24. Joey Kern's three-pointer gave the Blue Jays a 36-33 lead at halftime.
Johns Hopkins looked poised to pull off the upset after leading most of the game's final ten minutes. Whitworth took a 49-45 lead on a pair of free throws by Roach and still led 56-52 with 10:10 to go on a Roach three-pointer. Joey Fitzpatrick's trey gave JHU a 57-56 lead and the Blue Jays held that slight advantage most of the rest of the way.
Kern's final three-pointer of the game with 1:01 to go gave the Blue Jays a 74-71 lead. The outcome looked bleak for Whitworth when College was forced into a turnover 19 seconds later. Lester, playing with four personal fouls, made the defensive play of the game and somehow found College for the game-tying three.
Lester finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. College scored 13 points and dished five assists. Whitworth shot 46.3% from the field and fell far short of extending its record for consecutive 100-point games to five in a row. But the Pirates made 52.2% (12-23) of their shots in the second half, including 3-6 from beyond the arc. Whitworth also finished with a 40-34 edge on the boards.
Kern went 5-11 from three-point range to lead JHU with 23 points. Gardner added 15 points and six assists. Braeden Johnson came off the bench for 11 points and seven rebounds. The Blue Jays made 41% of their shots from the field.
Whitworth will take on Emory & Henry College in the D3hoops.com Classic finale on Sunday at 4:00 pm. It will be the final non-conference game of the regular season for the Pirates.