PARKLAND - A long-distance prayer from Pacific Lutheran's Cameron Schilling in the form of a three-pointer from just inside the halfcourt line was not answered and No. 4-ranked Whitworth escaped Olson Auditorium on Saturday night with a hard-fought 71-68 Northwest Conference men's basketball victory.
The Pirates won for the 18th consecutive time and improved to 18-1 overall and 10-0 in the conference standings. For the Lutes, the heart-breaking loss dropped their record to 5-14 oveall and 3-7 in the NWC.
PLU had the ball under its own basket with five seconds to play and trailing by three points, but Seth Anderson's inbounds pass was intercepted by 6-foot 8-inch Taylor Farnsworth. He then lost the ball to Daniel Landram, who passed to Schilling, who hoisted one from almost 45 feet away. Agonizingly, his shot bounced off the rim before fall away, assuring Whitworth of the win.
The game was another in a recent line of close contests between conference and national power Whitworth and the scrappy Lutes. Both eams shot the ball well, played excellent defense and for the most part limited their turnovers. In the end, it was Whitworth that took the victory.
Whitworth has done little to stop Schilling in recent meetings between the teams, and the PLU senior forward had another huge night with game highs of 25 points and five assists. Drew Earnest added 10 points and four assists for the Lutes, who shot 53 percent (24-for-45) from the field and 82 percent (14-for-17) from the foul line after an abysmal 18-for-35 the previous night in a narrow win over Whitman.
Pacific Lutheran also enjoyed a 25-22 rebounding edge, led by Cole Parker with five.
Dustin McConnell led Whitworth with 17 points, followed by Wade Gebbers with 14 and both Farnsworth and George Valle with 13 apiece. Farnsworth led his team with five rebounds. The Pirates shot 50 percent (20-for-40) overall, 50 percent (6-for-12) from three-point range and 76 percent (25-for-33) from the foul line.
Though Whitworth led for most of the opening half, it was very close with two ties five lead changes and neither team leading by more than five points, that coming when Whitworth took a 13-8 advantage on Zach Payne's layup with 14:38 on the clock. Schilling hit a layup to give his team a 26-25 advantage at the 4:32 mark, and when he scored another layup with two minutes left the Lutes took a 30-28 lead into the halftime break.
The second half was more of the same with six ties and seven lead changes. Parker drained a thee from the left wing to put PLU on top, 45-43, with 12:35 remaining, but Gebbers hit one of his own at the other end of the floor and Whitworth regained a lead that it held for the next eight minutes.
PLU tied the game at 62-62 on a three-pointer by Arvid Isaksen with 3:49 left, and Parker and Schilling followed with baskets to give PLU its largest lead of the game at 66-62 with 2:11 to play.
It was during that stretch that the Pirates scored 13 consecutive points at the foul line, including five by Farnsworth and four by Gebbers. When Valle knocked down a pair, the teams were tied at 66-66 with 1:13 to play.
After the Lutes missed a shot, Whitworth's McConnell snaked his way underneath and hit a layup to put his team on top for good, 68-66 with 26 seconds to play. Another PLU miss and a Whitworth free throw made it 69-66, and the Pirates wisely fouled Schilling in the open court to prevent a three-point attempt. Schilling hit both with six seconds to play, but McConnell was fouled and hit two more free throws to make the score 71-68.
That led to the final play and Schilling's shot that almost forced the game into overtime.
Pacific Lutheran returns to conference action at 8 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts the Puget Sound Loggers.
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