No. 20 Men's Basketball Drops Home Opener To No. 15 St. Thomas

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WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Jaron Kirkley and Darne Duckett carried the load again for the Blues, but it wasn't enough on this night as the No. 20 Whitman College men's basketball team fell to No. 15 St. Thomas 87-79 in the team's home opener Thursday night at the Sherwood Center.

The loss for the Blues (1-1) was their first regular season defeat at the Sherwood Center since January 2016. The Tommies improved to 1-0 with their season opening win.

Whitman could not overcome a hot night from the field by the Tommies who shot 54% from the floor and nearly 63% in the first half. Whitman could never find a rhythm and gain any serious momentum, shooting just under 40% for the game and unable to put together their patented runs to change the complexion of the game, which seemed much to the pace dictated by St. Thomas.

Andrew Vickers added 10 points with Robert Colton grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. Five Tommies scored in double figures led by Will Engels' near double double at 15 points and nine rebounds.

It was a scrappy game for nearly the entire 40 minutes. Duckett's three pointer early in the first half gave the Blues a 9-5 lead but Engels quickly responded with a layup and a three pointer as part of a 10-0 Tommie run.

The Blues continued to play from behind but a Duckett three pointer off a fastbreak finally put Whitman up 24-23. The Tommies regained the lead which they carried into the break.

The second half saw early baskets from Kevin Cunningham push the St. Thomas lead to eight points but Whitman never went away. Duckett's offense kept the Blues in the game, hitting on a pair of shots then nailing a three pointer to make it a 59-56 game with 11:15 to play. Later, a Trevor Osborne three and a Michael Gutierrez made free throw tied up the game at 67-67 with 6:31 remaining as the Whitman faithful rose to its feet to urge on the Blues.

Down the stretch, though, it were the Tommies who hit several big shots, including Nelson Anders dagger three with just over one minute to play, to take the win.

Whitman will look to rebound Saturday night when it hosts Cal Lutheran at 6:00 p.m.