#1 Whitworth Holds Off 11th-ranked Marietta
WOOSTER, Ohio -- This time Whitworth weathered the storm. After watching most of a 20-point first-half lead disappear, the top-ranked Pirates answered back and defeated 11th-ranked Marietta 93-77 to advance to the NCAA Division III sectional finals for the first time on Friday night at College of Wooster's Timken Gymnasium.
Michael Taylor (Brewster) scored a game-high 27 points and Wade Gebbers tallied 18 of his 22 points after halftime to help Whitworth improve to 28-1.
The Pirates looked like the team with more experience in the post season during the opening ten minutes. After the Pioneers pulled to within 17-12, David Riley and Jack Loofburrow hit back to back three-pointers to ignite an 18-3 run that gave Whitworth a 35-15 lead with just under eight minutes to go in the first half.
Marietta gathered itself and pulled within 42-33 on a three-pointer by Brian Crader with 1:24 to play in the half. But the Bucs finished the half with a Taylor three-pointer and a lay-up just before the buzzer by Michael Taylor from Aspen, Colorado for a 49-33 lead.
But the Pirates knew a run would come. The Ohio Athletic Conference champions had made a habit of stirring comebacks all season. Whitworth also had to overcome the memory of losing a double-digit lead in last season's round-of-16 loss to Eastern Mennonite.
By the time Jacob Owens drilled a three-pointer just over two minutes into the second half, the Pioneers had opened the period on a 11-0 run and cut the lead to 49-44. The Pirates did not flinch, answering with a Wade Gebbers three-ball and a Taylor jumper. After Whitworth stretched the lead back to 14 (65-51), Marietta made one more run to cut the lead to 65-56. The Bucs tightened the defense and took a 77-61 lead with 4:39 to play on a fast-break lay-up by Taylor to essentially put the game away.
Whitworth hit 62% (29-47) from the field, 60% (12-22) from three-point range. The Pirates had a 32-19 edge on the boards as well.
Taylor scored 17 of his 27 in the first half, while Gebbers had 18 of his 22 after halftime. Riley went 4-5 from three-point range and finished with 20 points. Felix Friedt led all players with nine rebounds.
Clay Gebbers held OAC Player of the Year Trevor Halter without a basket. Halter finished 7-10 from the free throw line for seven points. Connor Kilpatrick came off of the bench to score 16 points to lead Marietta. Owens hit four threes for 14 points, while freshman point guard Tyler Hammond added a dozen points.