SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth University held off Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 93-83 on the opening night of the Whitworth Tip Off Classic presented by Quality Inn Oakwood to give Damion Jablonski his first win as the Pirates' men's basketball coach.
Ben College had 24 points to lead three players in double figures as Whitworth defeated the same Stags team that knocked the Pirates out of the NCAA Division III Tournament in 2017 and 2018.
Jablonski was an assistant coach at Whitworth for eight years, including the previous five as Associate Head Coach, before he was promoted to the top spot in March.
Whitworth used strong rebounding and opportunistic defense to open a double digit lead in the first half. The Pirates outrebounded the stags 25-17 in the opening 20 minutes, including an 11-4 edge in offensive boards. That, and an 11-4 edge in turnovers for the Bucs, allowed Whitworth to take eight more shots than CMS. JT McDermott hit back-to-back baskets to give the Bucs a 41-22 lead with 3:26 to go in the half, but the Stags cut the margin to 47-33 at halftime, thanks in part to George Walker's put-back basket at the buzzer.
Claremont-M-S cut the margin to 53-44 five minutes into the second half. But Whitworth responded with a 12-2 run, capped by a Jordan Lester three-pointer and Garrett Paxton's three-point play, to stretch the lead back to 65-46 with 13:10 to go.
CMS again fought back to within 70-60 on JD Levin's jumper with 8:41 to play, but Isaiah Hernandez answered with five straight points for the Pirates. The Stags cut the margin to single digits one final time when George Walker's basket pulled CMS within 86-77. But only 1:18 remained in the game at that point.
College was 12-15 at the free throw line for half of his points. He added five rebounds and four assists. Lester scored 18 points, grabbed a team-high eight boards, and also dished four assists for the Bucs, while Hernandez finished with 16 points.
Miles President led CMS with 14 points while Levine and Walker each scored 13.
Whitworth will take on Trinity on Saturday in the finale of the season-opening event. The Tigers fell 99-93 to George Fox in Friday's first game. CMS will play GFU in Saturday's lead-in.