TACOMA - Unable to sustain a rally that stalled midway through the second half, Whitman College dropped a 79-62 men's basketball decision to Puget Sound in tonight's semifinals of the Northwest Conference post-season tournament.
Playing on Puget Sound's floor in Tacoma, Whitman fell behind 41-28 by halftime but then opened the second stanza on an 18-8 run. That closed the Missionary gap to 49-46 with 12 minutes still left to play.
But the Loggers, now 21-6 on the season, responded with eight of the next nine points to regain control.
Whitman, which ended its season at 18-8, surged again to trail 57-51 with eight minutes remaining. Puget Sound pulled away from there and kept its lead in double digits for the final 6:28.
The two teams finished the regular season in a second-place tie in NWC standings, but Puget Sound got the tournament's No. 2 seed and hosting rights for the semifinals by virtue of its two narrow victories over Whitman earlier in the season.
The Loggers advance to play top-seeded Whitworth in Saturday's tournament finale in Spokane. The winner of that game gets the NWC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III national championship field.
Whitworth advanced tonight by beating fourth-seeded Lewis & Clark 79-61 in the tournament's other semifinal.
Whitman's David Michaels, who was named NWC Player of the Year earlier in the week, finished his superlative senior season by scorching Puget Sound with a game-high 28 points. He hit seven of 14 shots from the floor, including two of four 3-point tries, and made 12 of 14 free throws.
Puget Sound, which had three players score in double figures, also got nine points and 14 rebounds from Kaleb Shelton. The Loggers outrebounded Whitman 51-38 and shot 56 percent from the floor in building their first-half lead.
Puget Sound bolted to a 9-0 lead in the first three-plus minutes of the game.
Baskets by sophomores Josh Duckworth and Ryan Gilkey got Whitman on the scoreboard. A 3-pointer by junior Peter Clark, preceded by two free throws by sophomore LuQuam Thompson, made it a 14-11 game after six minutes of play.
Michaels drove to the hoop for a basket-and-one at the 11:44 mark, drawing the Missionaries to within a single point at 18-17. But the Loggers answered with a pair of 3-pointers and stretched their advantage to 13 points by intermission.
Michaels scored the first seven points of the second half, knocking down a three and converting two layups. That sliced the Logger lead to 41-35 after just three minutes.
Puget Sound jumped its lead back to 12 points at 49-37, but baskets by junior Ignas Pavilonis and Duckworth got Whitman going again. Michaels added two free throws and then hit again from the 3-point arc to leave the Missionaries down by just three, 49-46.
Two offensive rebounds on Puget Sound's next possession set the stage for Shelton's 3-point strike. A Derek Jobe three gave the Loggers a 57-47 advantage with 10 minutes left.
Whitman tallied the next four points on Thompson's jumper and two Michaels free throws, but a 3-pointer by Ryan Rogers put the Loggers back on top by nine points. After Puget Sound stretched the margin to 13 points, the Missionaries drew no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Michaels was the only Whitman player scoring in double figures. Duckworth had seven points and Thompson six. Four other Missionaries scored five points each while junior Drew Raher collected a team-high nine rebounds.
Whitman had a tough night shooting the ball, making just four of 17 three-point attempts while shooting 26.6 from the floor for the game.
After shooting 56 percent in the first half, Puget Sound cooled off a bit over the final 20 minutes to finish the game at 48.1 percent. The Loggers were eight of 18 from the 3-point line on the night.
Riggs Yarbro led Puget Sound with 14 points while Edric Egberuare added 13 points and six rebounds.
With his 28 points, Michaels finished his career with 1,032 points, moving into 20th place on Whitman's all-time career scoring list.
Senior Brandon Shaw had five points in his final game, increasing his final point total to 1,323. He ranks ninth on the all-time scoring list.
Puget Sound 79, Whitman 62
WHITMAN (18-8) - Michaels 7-14 12-14 28; Duckworth 3-6 1-1 7; Thompson 1-9 4-5 6; Shaw 1-9 3-6 5; Pavilonis 2-5 0-0 5; Gilkey 2-4 1-2 5; Clark 1-4 2-2 5; Eisenhardt 0-3 1-2 1; Raher 0-7 0-0 0; Wright 0-0 0-0 0; Alvarez 0-0 0-0 0; Gagliardi 0-0 0-0 0; Dickson 0-1 0-0 0; Mounier 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 17-64 24-32 62.
PUGET SOUND (20-6) - Yarbro 4-10 6-6 14; Egberuare 5-8 1-2 13; Holmes 4-8 4-6 12; Shelton 3-8 2-8 9; Rogers 2-5 3-4 9; Jobe 3-7 0-0 8; Gittens 3-3 1-2 7; Fernandez 1-2 3-4 6; Thomas 0-0 1-2 1; Harrison 0-1 0-0 0; Hoff 0-0 0-0 0; Geverola 0-0 0-0 0; Holden 0-0 0-0 0; Borboa 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-52 21-34 79.
Halftime-Puget Sound 41-28. 3-point goals-Whitman 4-17 (Michaels 2-4; Clark 1-2; Pavilonis 1-3; Shaw 0-1; Raher 0-5; Dickson 0-1; Thompson 0-1), Puget Sound 8-18 (Rogers 2-5; Egberuare 2-3; Jobe 2-5; Shelton 1-3; Fernandez 1-1; Harrison 0-1). Fouled out-Whitman-Michaels; Raher, Puget Sound-Yarbro; Gittens. Rebounds-Whitman 38 (Raher 9), Puget Sound 51 (Shelton 14). Assists-Whitman 4 (Duckworth 2), Puget Sound 12 (Egberuare 4). Total fouls-Whitman 27, Puget Sound 25. Technical fouls-Whitman-None, Puget Sound-None. A-768