SPOKANE, Wash. – On their night the Whitworth seniors took center stage in the Pirates' 82-73 win over visiting Lewis & Clark in the Northwest Conference men's basketball regular season finale for both teams.
Christian Jurlina, Drew Sears, Kenny Love and Derek Isaak, all recognized prior to the game, each played a key role to help 5th-ranked Whitworth improve to 22-3 overall and 13-3 in the NWC. The Pioneers finished their season 9-16, 6-10.
Jurlina had 18 points and seven rebounds, while Sears added 15 points and three blocked shots. Love also had seven rebounds and dished six assists to lead all players, and Isaak played solid defense, had four boards and three assists.
Whitworth now heads into the upcoming NWC tournament as the number two seed and will host third-seeded Linfield (15-10) in next Thursday's semifinal. Top-seeded Whitman (25-0) hosts fourth-seeded George Fox (10-15) in the other semifinal on Thursday.
Whitworth never trailed against L&C, but after building a big first half lead the Pirates had a hard time putting the Pioneers away. Sears, Isaak and Jurlina all scored during a 10-0 run to start the game. A layup by Benjamin Nick increased the lead to 37-23 with five minutes to go. But L&C was able to rally to within 43-37 at halftime, thanks in part to eight points off of the bench from Skout Roberson.
The Pioneers continued to chip away in the second half, pulling within 50-46 on a three-pointer by Ryan Stewart. When Stewart hit from three again, L&C had gotten within 59-58 with less than nine minutes to play.
Still leading only 70-68 with 3:37 to go, Whitworth finally found some breathing room after baskets by Kyle Roach and Sears increased the margin to 74-68 with 2:30 left. Roach's basket with just under a minute to play was the back-breaker, giving the Bucs a 78-70 lead. Love and Jurlina combined to go 4-4 at the free throw line in the final minute to seal the win.
Roach scored 20 points for the Pirates, making 8-10 from the field. Whitworth finished the game 29-53 (55%) from the floor and 18-22 (82%) from the free throw line.
Nico Bricker led the Pioneers with 21 points and Cory Coombe added 15 points. Roberson finished with ten.