The University of Redlands men's basketball team battled it out with the No. 6 Whitworth University (WA) Pirates in tonight's first-round game of the NCAA Division III Championships but fell short of the upset by a score of 69-75. After the Maroon and Gray built a 10-point lead with 13:18 to go in the second stanza, the Pirates responded with four threes in the next four minutes to swing the momentum back in their favor. From there, it came down to free-throws and possession, with Whitworth owning a slight edge for the win.
Amidst an energetic crowd that included a noticeable crew of Bulldog faithful, Redlands settled into its game plan and went to work against the seven-time Northwest Conference champions.
The teams traded baskets and forced multiple ties through the first 11 minutes of competition.
With the score knotted at 23, Redlands' junior guard Alex Rudd (St. Louis, MO) already had 11 points off the bench, including three three-pointers.
A George Valle lay-up and a long ball by Wade Gebbers gave Whitworth the 30-24 advantage with 7:34 left in the first stanza.
About two minutes later, the Bulldogs looked to junior guard Ricky Peetz(Redlands, CA) to come up with a timely three-pointer to shift the momentum back to the Maroon and Gray. This inspired a 14-2 run to close out the opening frame, with Redlands leading 41-35 at the break. Junior guard Matt Calhoun (Clackamas, OR), junior forward Eric Radford (Federal Way, WA), senior forward Josiah Brensdal (Kent, WA) and Kirk all contributed points to this offensive outburst for the Bulldogs.
During the first 20 minutes, Redlands put together a solid shooting effort of 48.1%, compared to Whitworth's showing of 42.9%. But the biggest difference came from downtown, as the Bulldogs hit six of their 12 attempts, while the Pirates were 4-for-11.
Although Whitworth rattled off five straight points to begin the second half, Redlands answered right back with a four-point spurt of its own to make it 45-40 just three minutes in.
A Colton McCargar three-pointer cut the deficit to two but the Bulldogs fired off a 12-4 run to create a 10-point lead at 57-47 with 13:18 to go. Peetz stepped up for the Maroon and Gray, draining three threes in just over two minutes.
But as quickly as Redlands got ahead, the Pirates closed the gap and regained the lead with their own barrage of three-pointers.
Trailing 59-66, the Bulldogs mustered one more rally with another Peetz jumper and consecutive lay-ups by Kirk and Rudd to pull within one.
But it was not enough, as costly turnovers forced Redlands to foul down the stretch, resulting in the season-ending loss.
Kirk finished his career with an impressive line, including a team-high 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He wrapped up his four-year stint at Redlands with 1,063 points.
Peetz and Rudd came off the bench for 14 points apiece in tonight's contest.
Radford grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
The Pirates gained four players in double figures, with Gebbers and McCargar leading the game with 21 apiece.
As a team, Redlands shot a solid 43.6% overall, compared to Whitworth's 44.6% effort. Both teams converted nine three-pointers, but the Pirates made four more free-throws than the Bulldogs, providing a slight scoring edge.
The Maroon and Gray finished with only 11 turnovers, but seven of those came in the second half.
The rebounding battle was tight, with Whitworth gaining just two more than Redlands.
The Bulldogs complete the 2012-13 season with a 22-6 overall record, which is Head Coach Jim Ducey's best mark in his six years at the helm of the program. In addition, it ranks second in program history for the number of victories in a season, sitting only behind Lee Fulmer's 1960-61 campaign that culminated in a 27-7 record.