Pirates Foil Bearcats, 69-66, in NWC Playoffs

Spokane, WA — The only team to beat the Willamette University men’s basketball team more than once this season did it again Thursday night as the Whitworth Pirates defeated the Bearcats 69-66 in the first round of the Northwest Conference playoffs.

Whitworth (20-6), in beating the Bearcats for the third time this season, advances to the conference finals Saturday night at UPS. Willamette finished the season 17-8.

John Olinger’s long 3-pointer brought the Bearcats to within three, 69-66, with 15 seconds to play. The Bearcats got the ball back with 4 seconds to play when Bryan Williams missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Willamette couldn’t connect on a long pass and Whitworth ran out the clock.

The Bearcats fell behind 7-0 to start the game, but free throws from Jason Luchterhand and Jacob Baran got the Bearcats back within three. A 3-pointer from Stuvland and lay-ups by Olinger and Luchterhand gave the Bearcats their first lead at 11-9.

The rest of the first half remained close with neither team taking more than a four-point lead. Luchterhand scored the Bearcats’ last six points of the half and Willamette took a 33-32 lead into the locker room.

Luchterhand’s 10 points and Olinger’s 8 led Willamette. Brennan Garrelts came off the bench to score four points and Josh Erickson added six more in the first half.

Whitworth came back to lead again, 41-38 on Lance Pecht’s 3-point play and the Bearcats never got the lead back. Willamette pulled to 55-53 on Luchterhand’s basket and free throw with 7:12 to play.

Josh Erickson’s 3-pointer got the Bearcats within one, but two straight treys from Jon Young pushed the lead back to five, 65-60.

Olinger hit two 3’s down the stretch, but George Tucker’s two free throws with 20 seconds to play sealed the deal for Whitworth.

Olinger led Willamette with 22 points. Luchterhand added 13 and eight boards to go along with three assists. Erickson scored a season-high 11 points.

Pecht, the conference player of the year, had 23 points and eight rebounds to lead Whitworth. Tucker added 20 points. Young and Williams each had nine.

Willamette out-rebounded Whitworth 32-30, but shot only 43%. Whitworth shot 50%.

The winner of Saturday night’s game between UPS and Whitworth will represent the NWC in the NCAA Division III basketball tournament.