Bearcats' late surge overcomes Whitman, 62-49

SALEM — Willamette outscored Whitman 14-3 in the final 4:07 Friday to come away with a hard-fought 62-49 Northwest Conference victory over visiting Whitman in Cone Field House.

The win improved the Bearcats’ records to 15-5 overall and 9-3 in the NWC, maintaining their grip on second place. Thirteenth-ranked Whitworth (19-2, 10-2 NWC), which played at Linfield on Friday, comes to Salem tomorrow night in what maybe the biggest conference game of the season. Whitman fell to 7-15 and 4-9, respectively.

But Whitman almost took the luster off the Whitworth-Willamette showdown. The Missionaries matched Willamette’s toughness and forced the hosts into 16 turnovers. Whitman trailed by just two points at 48-46 before the Bearcats went on their run.

Marques Johnson, who had game-highs of 21 points and 16 rebounds, got the streak going with a free throw to make it 49-46. Moments later, B.J. Dobrkovsky hit a three-pointer from the left wing and Miles Sandgathe scored off a driving layup to make it 54-46 with 2:29 left.

After Sandgathe’s score, Whitman’s Cale Will was whistled for a technical foul and Sandgathe converted both charity tosses to stretch the lead to 56-46.

The Bearcats also got 14 points and five assists from Ryan Hepp. Dobrkovsky came off the bench to add 10 points and five rebounds in 22 minutes.

Whitman was led by Casey Nelson’s 13 points and four rebounds off the bench. Mark Bouma was the only other Missionary in double figures with 10 points.

While both teams struggled somewhat from the field (WU 42.3 %; Whitman 35.8%), Willamette converted 15 of 17 free throws and the visitors canned 10 of 13 charity tosses.

Johnson made 8 of 10 shots from the field and 5 of 7 free throws. Sandgathe was held to single digits in scoring (eight points) for just the second time this season.