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Whitworth lacks sharp play but finds way to hold off Pacific

By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

There wasn’t a lot that looked pretty in Whitworth’s 91-78 victory over Pacific on Friday night at the Fieldhouse.

The Pirates didn’t shoot their free throws well (22 of 33). Sam Lees and Isaiah Hernandez dealt with foul trouble most of the night. And Ben College, the Northwest Conference’s leading scorer, was held 14 points below his average.

But the visiting Boxers weren’t at their best, either, and the Pirates did enough to win their sixth game in a row and keep pace with Whitman atop of the NWC standings.

“It wasn’t the flow that you would love to see, but you gotta grit it out, and we did that,” Whitworth coach Damion Jablonski said.

Whitworth shot 60% in the first half and built a 49-31 advantage at the break. After halftime, the Pirates pushed their lead as high as 21 before the Boxers made it interesting.

Pacific used a 16-4 run to pull within eight points with just over 11 minutes left.

But after being held to two points in 4 first-half minutes, the senior Lees made 6 of 9 attempts in the second half and finished with a team-high 16 points. Fellow senior Garrett Hull chipped in 15 points and secured 11 rebounds to help the Pirates stave off the charging Boxers.

“Those seniors are hopefully the ones who are driving you with their passion and their intensity and their urgency, and we certainly got that from them,” Jablonski said.

College, the team’s third senior, wasn’t particularly sharp. After opening the game with a 3-pointer, he missed his final six such attempts and finished with nine points, his second fewest of the season.

Foul trouble for Lees and Hernandez forced the Pirates deeper into the bench, and they found help: Junior post Chewy Zevenbergen matched a season high with nine points – all at the free-throw line – and grabbed five of the Pirates’ 17 offensive rebounds.

That performance helped compensate for the Pirates’ 20 turnovers, second most of the season. Whitworth managed Pacific’s full-court press pretty well, Jablonski said, but the problem was more what the Pirates did next.

“I don’t know that we always put together a moment-to-moment transition from breaking the press to then running the offense to then getting back on ‘D’ to then breaking the press,” Jablonski said. “But again, we find a way to win.”

Whitworth (18-4, 12-1 NWC) managed 13 more second-chance points than Pacific (6-16, 3-10) thanks to a 48-23 total rebounding advantage.

The Pirates hit just 1 of 11 3-point attempts after halftime – but the Boxers weren’t much better (3 of 14).

West Valley High graduate Nick Drynan, a freshman at Pacific, finished with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He came in averaging 17.8 points in his last six games. Pacific made just 10 of 17 free-throw attempts.

Seven Pirates players scored at least eight points, including a career-high 11 off the bench from sophomore Kea Vargas.

Whitworth hosts George Fox (8-14, 4-9) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Fieldhouse. Seniors Lees, Hull and College will be recognized before the game, Whitworth’s last at home during the regular season.

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