The inherent reward of starting the season 3-0 was pretty good for Whitworth’s Jordan Lester.
But getting to watch coach Damion Jablonski run sprints will be pretty sweet, too.
“We actually had a bet today that if we held them under 60 points our coach has to run a 90-second sprint (Friday) in practice,” said Lester, a senior. “So that’s something that we’re looking forward to.”
The Pirates beat that mark by nine points in a 105-51 win over Cal Lutheran on Thursday at the Fieldhouse. It was the fewest points Whitworth had allowed in a game since Feb. 10, 2017, a span of 64 games, and a larger margin of victory than any contest last season.
The Pirates’ first-year coach said he’s happy to pay up on the bet.
“I think its 14 lengths of the court in 90 seconds. It’s probably one of our guys’ least favorite conditioning things,” Jablonski said. “I think they’ll enjoy watching me. I’m not exactly as fleet of foot as I used to be.”
The drill – part of a renewed focus on defense this season – appeared to pay off for the Pirates. They outrebounded the Kingsmen 41-28, had nine steals and scored 46 points in the paint, balancing out a 13-of-27 effort from 3-point range.
Senior Ben College led the Pirates with 22 points, followed by senior forward Sam Lees with 12. Lester had eight points, eight assists and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.
The Kingsmen (0-1), playing under new coach Russell White this season, finished 18 of 64 from the floor.
“When we give that type of effort and execute like that on defense, I think we’re really tough,” College said.
Sophomore Garrett Paxton came off the bench and hit his first three shots, all 3s, and finished with 11 points.
“His shooting ability is amazing,” Lester said of Paxton, Kamiakin High School’s all-time leading scorer. “For me, I’m more of a driver and passer, and so I love playing with shooters. It opens up the floor, especially when you have College in one corner and Paxton in one corner.”
Jablonski went to his bench often. Eleven players saw the floor within the game’s first 12 minutes, and all 11 are averaging more than 10 minutes per game.
Last year, just nine players did that – and one of them was Garrett Hull, who played five games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Hall, a senior guard, is expected back this season.
“I have a lot of confidence in those guys, and they all contribute in different ways,” Jablonski said of the 11-man rotation. “Three games in and I’ve done that every time, so at this point it’s a trend.”
Against the Kingsmen, the Pirates seized control with a 22-6 run to end the first half and led 53-29 at the break.
About 4 1/2 minutes into the second, Hernandez passed on an open 3 from the wing and gave the ball to College in the corner. He drained the 3-pointer, his fifth of the night, pushing the lead to 67-34 on a play that illustrated the sort of ball movement Jablonski wanted to see.
“That was probably my favorite offensive possession of the night, for sure,” Jablonski said. “That’s one I want to go find on tape and use any time we’re not feeling it as a reminder.”
Whitworth’s next foe might be the best it sees all season. St. Thomas (Minnesota), ranked 15th in the preseason d3hoops.com poll, beat No. 20 Whitman 87-79 on Thursday in Walla Walla and will visit the Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. Saturday.
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