WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Joey Hewitt and Austin Butler scored 20 points apiece to guide the No. 2 Whitman College men's basketball team a 107-84 win over George Fox and, with it, the top seed in the Northwest Conference's postseason tournament and at least a share of the regular season title.
The win gave the Blues (21-1, 13-0 in NWC) its 53rd conference victory and 17th straight overall.
Cedric Jacobs-Jones added 13 points, Trevor Osborne and Andrew Vickers chipped in 12 points apiece, and Darné Duckett added 10 for the Blues, who forced 30 turnovers and won the second half 66-47 after a tough first-half fight by the plucky Bruins.
Whitman squeaked out of halftime with a 41-37 lead, which Fox cut to two points, twice, in the early moments of the second half.
But two big runs -- the first underwritten by Butler's slashing, open-court arsenal, the second by fellow senior Hewitt's slithery post game -- quickly turned a nail-biter into a blowout.
Butler (9-of-12 shooting, three assists, two steals) had eight points during an 11-2 burst to the 15:47 mark that gave the Blues a 56-43 lead.
Hewitt (who was 8 for 12 from the floor) scored seven straight Whitman points during a 15-7 rush which built the home team's cushion to 20.
All seventeen Blues in uniform eventually played, with the Blues eclipsing a now-familiar milestone – the 100-point plateau – on Duckett's steal and over-the-shoulder circus lay-up near the 4-minute mark.
Whitman was out of joint on offense for much of the first half, and George Fox took advantage to keep things close. The Bruins trailed 11-2 but fought back to take a 16-14 lead at the 12-minute mark.
The Blues appeared to be mustering a trademark, kill-shot run, as an 8-2 burst featuring tough buckets from Jacobs-Jones and Duckett – and the first of two emphatic Butler dunks – restored a 22-16 advantage for the hosts.
But Fox scrapped to take leads of 25-24, 28-25, 32-28 and 35-30, the latter with just 3:03 to go in the half.
Osborne's 3-pointer with 2:59 to play extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one made 3-pointer to 28 – and ignited an 11-2 Whitman run to close the half.
Whitman led 41-37 at the break despite a rough patch from deep (it made just 3 of 11 3-pointers over the first 20 minutes) and middling performance at the free throw line (it hit 8 of 15).
The Blues' first-half defense was unimpeachable. Whitman forced 18 turnovers while allowing just 13 made field goals prior to recess.
Duckett had six of the Blues' 19 steals in the game and Hewitt five. Vickers had two steals. Rob Colton grabbed eight rebounds as Whitman won the glass 37-29, with Jacobs-Jones and Osborne snagging five boards each.
Mason Green-Richards paced the Bruins with 16 points. Jackson Januik added 15.
Whitman will celebrate its seven seniors when it hosts Linfield at 6 p.m. tonight in its final home game of the regular season.
With three conference games remaining, the Blues lead Whitworth (10-3 in NWC) by three games. Linfield (8-5) is alone in third.