The Whitworth Pirates learned a little more about themselves Saturday night.
“This was a huge weekend in determining what our DNA was going to look like the rest of the season,” coach Matt Logie said after his team’s 80-72 Northwest Conference win over Pacific Lutheran at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
“We took some huge steps in terms of our toughness,” Logie said.
The Pirates also took plenty of steps to the free-throw line – 27 for 32 – which for the second night was the difference between losing and improving to 13-2 overall and 4-2 in the NWC.
Moments after it was over, they got another bonus: a tie for second place in the NWC standings with George Fox, which lost to Linfield.
Saturday’s win – Whitworth’s 24th in a row over PLU – played out much like a 77-65 win over Puget Sound the night before. Whitworth got off to a slow start, closed the gap by halftime and made enough plays to hold on.
They barely did that in the final moments, as a 12-point lead with 3 minutes to play dwindled to four with 52 seconds left.
Backup forward C.J. Johnson’s clutch offensive rebound with 15 seconds left led to a pair of free throws to ice the game.
“That’s something we can build on,” Logie said.
The buildup continues at Lewis and Clark on Friday and George Fox on Saturday. Win those and the eighth-ranked Pirates will have plenty of momentum when they host second-ranked Whitman on Jan. 24.
That game was far from the Pirates’ minds on Saturday, as PLU (7-8, 2-4) had the better of things in the first half
The Lutes led by as many as five in the early going, but guard Derek Isaak sparked the Pirates with a layup and a 3-pointer to give Whitworth a brief 23-19 lead.
With 9 minutes left in the half, Whitworth was shooting better than 60 percent from the field, yet trailed the Lutes 24-23. The culprit: turnovers, four of them in the first 9 minutes.
Getting 11 first-half points from Ferris High School product Jared Christy, the Lutes took a five-point lead late in the half. Christy went on to score a game-high 26 points.
Meanwhile, Kyle Roach and Kenny Love – who combined for 43 points the night before against Puget Sound – combined for just three in the first half.
Whitworth trailed 34-33 at intermission but opened the second half with a 17-4 run capped by Roach’s free throw that made it 51-41.
PLU stayed within single digits most of the way, but the Pirates – who were just 5 for 6 from the line in the first half – began to pound the ball inside and drawing fouls.
“These games against UPS and PLU have been a grind since my freshman year,” said senior forward Christian Jurlina, who scored a team-high 17 points.
“They’re a smaller team, so you have to throw it into the bigger boys,” Jurlina said.
Most of the Pirates joined in the second-half parade to the foul line. Jurlina and Love led the way with six apiece.
“It’s great to step up and make your free throws,” said Logie, who watched his team make 22 of 26 in the second half.
Isaak, who finished with 14 points, gave the Pirates their biggest lead, 69-53, on a 3-pointer with 7 minutes left.
CC Spokane 120, Yakima Valley 77: Levi Taylor scored 33 points with seven assists and the Sasquatch (13-4, 2-2) ran away from the visiting Yaks (7-9, 1-3).
Taylor went 14 of 20 from the field, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc. CCS shot 67.7 percent in the first half, running up a 68-36 lead at intermission.
Cesar Sandoval and Cameron Gay scored 17 points apiece, while Orin Porter added 12. The Sasquatch had no one with double-digit rebounds, yet enjoyed a 51-40 advantage on the glass.
Terrance White led Yakima Valley with 20 points, Maurice Hodge had 14 and Keyshawn Webb added 10.
North Idaho 91, Treasure Valley 89: Jalen Burkett led four in double figures with 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and the Cardinals (14-1, 2-0) edged the visiting Chukars (8-6, 1-2).
NIC shot nearly 51 percent from the field. Niko Bevins had 20 on 7-of-10 shooting, sam Dowd scored 18 points and Zaquan Satterthwaite chipped in with 12.
Jaden Vaughn had 23 points and Tyus Jefferson scored 22 for Treasure Valley.
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