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Another Heartbreaker as Lutes Fall to Pirates

James Conti (1)

SPOKANE, Wash. – Pacific Lutheran pushed 10th-ranked Whitworth to the closing seconds but a final shot wouldn't go down and the Pirates survived, 82-80, in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game played Saturday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.

With their fifth straight victory, the Pirates improved to 18-3 overall and at 11-1 are three games clear in first place in the Northwest Conference standings. The Lutes dropped to 10-11, 7-5 following a game it had a chance to win despite never holding a lead.

Pacific Lutheran pushed Whitworth for the second time this season. In early January in Parkland, PLU took the nationally ranked Pirates to overtime before losing 103-94. PLU's combined losing margin in its other four conference losses, including tonight's contest, is nine points.

Despite hitting 14 three-pointers and 58 percent from beyond the arc, Whitworth had its hands full with the Lutes for the second time this season. The Pirates survived an overtime contest the first time the teams met in early January in Parkland.  

Wade Gebbers hit three three-pointers in the first two minutes to help the Pirates jump out to a 12-7 lead.  But the Lutes never let the Pirates break away and James Conti's layup tied the game 14-14 before four minutes were gone.  Idris Lasisi hit a three-pointer to give Whitworth a 36-26 lead with nine minutes left in the half.  It would be the Pirates' largest lead of the game as the Lutes continued to respond, getting within 36-33 on a three-pointer by Drew Earnest.  Lasisi's two free throws put Whitworth head 43-35 before the Lutes closed to within 49-44 at halftime on a three-point play by Terrell Williams.

PLU score the first two baskets of the second half to pull within 49-48.  It would be the first of six times the Lutes would get within a single point in the second half, but they never took the lead as Whitworth answered with a key basket on every occasion. 

Jack Loofburrow's three-pointer gave the Pirates a 68-61 lead with 12:41 to play, but Conti sparked a 6-0 PLU run with a driving layup and Whitworth would never lead by as much the rest of the game. 

Cameron Reister's three-pointer from the right side pulled PLU within 78-77 with 3:57 left, but Lasisi answered with a three of his own for the Pirates 20 seconds later.  After an exchange of missed shots, Reister hit a three from the same spot with 1:50 left to get the Lutes within one point a final time. 

Whitworth turned the ball over late in its next possession and then PLU had three good looks at a go-ahead basket.  Kai Hoyt's final drive was defended and rebounded by 6-foot 8-inch Felix Friedt with eight seconds left.  Whitworth worked a perfect inbounds play to Dustin McConnell and by the time the Lutes were able to foul, only 1.2 seconds were left.  Mack Larkin made one of two free throws for the final margin.

Reister led PLU in scoring for the second straight game, finishing with 20 points. Conti scored 18 and dished out four assists, Cameron Schilling scored 13 points and Hoyt finished with 11.

PLU converted 46 percent (24-for-52) of its shots, but the Lutes earned 13 offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line 23 times, where they converted 21 attempts.

Wade Gebbers finished with a game-high 22 points for Whitworth, and Loofburrow was 5-for-6 from beyond the arc on the way to a season-high 21 points.  Friedt posted his 11th double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds. 

Whitworth was remarkably consistent in the game, making 14-for-24 from three-point range and 14-for-24 from two-point range.  The Pirates were 12-for-13 from the free throw line.

PLU returns to action at 8 p.m. Tuesday when it takes on the Puget Sound Loggers at the UPS Memorial Fieldhouse.

(Courtesy of Whitworth Sports Information)