LAS VEGAS – Ninth-ranked Whitworth did just enough down the stretch to hold off Emory & Henry 87-80 in the finale of the D3hoops.com Classic on Sunday afternoon at South Point Arena.
The Bucs improved to 10-1 thanks to 23 points from Ben College and a career-high 15 points off the bench by Kevin Crosno.
Whitworth is now 7-1 in four appearances at the D3hoops.com Classic since 2010.
Despite a season-low eight points, Pirate All-American Kyle Roach went 4-4 at the free throw line over the final 53 seconds to help keep the Wasps (9-4) at-bay. Whitworth built a 19-point lead early in the second half before E&H cut the margin to as close as five points in the final minute.
The Pirates never trailed, opening an early 10-4 lead thanks to consecutive three-pointers by College and Jordan Lester. Whitworth stretched the lead to 28-14 on Jared Christy's basket before the Wasps cut the margin to 34-26 on Daniel Spencer's three-pointer. A Christy three-pointer extended the Bucs lead back to 41-28 at halftime.
College's three-pointer capped a 9-2 spurt for Whitworth to open the second half, giving the Bucs their largest lead of the game (50-31). E&H clawed back to within 63-54 with 8:42 to play when Jarris Hendricks was fouled making a three-pointer and converted the four-point play. Whitworth seemed to reestablish control by scoring the next six points to go up 69-54. The Wasps again cut the margin to eight points with 1:30 to go after Spencer's three-point play and got within 85-80 with 31 seconds left. Roach and College were a combined 6-6 at the free throw line over the final minute to secure the win.
"I thought today's game was a good learning opportunity for us," said head coach Matt Logie. "We learned more about how to play with a lead after we had a solid first half. Emory & Henry is a good team and we knew they'd make runs at us."
Whitworth made 57% (29-51) of its shots, including 45% (9-20) from three-point range. The Bucs also went 20-23 (87%) from the free throw line. However, E&H was able to stay close by outrebounding the Pirates 34-30, including a 15-5 edge in offensive boards.
College, named to the all-tournament team, hit 6-12 from the floor and 3-6 from three-point range. College went 8-8 at the line and has made his last 20 free throws in a row.
Crosno went 4-6 from three-point range and finished with 15 to surpass his previous career-high of 12 points. Christy totaled 11 points and five assists, while Ben Bishop had ten points. Lester led Whitworth with 13 rebounds (a career-high) and six assists to go along with nine. The Pirates had 20 assists on their 29 baskets.
Spencer scored 20 of his game-high 29 points in the second half to spark the E&H comeback. He added a team-high 12 rebounds. Suggs totaled 24 and Alic Wynn finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. However, the Wasps only got two points from their bench.
Whitworth will return to Northwest Conference play on Friday with a game at Lewis & Clark College.