Whitman men surge past Bruins into NWC title tilt

Whitman College's Ben Eisenhardt (center) splits George Fox University defenders Sean Atkins (left) and Jason Martin pursuing an offensive rebound during the second half of their Northwest Conference semifinal matchup Thursday evening in Walla Walla.

Whitman College's Ben Eisenhardt (center) splits George Fox University defenders Sean Atkins (left) and Jason Martin pursuing an offensive rebound during the second half of their Northwest Conference semifinal matchup Thursday evening in Walla Walla. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.

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WALLA WALLA — One might think that most basketball teams would be headed for a certain defeat if an opponent shot 62 percent from the field over the course of a game.

George Fox’s men made 32 of 52 shots from the floor on Thursday night during their Northwest Conference playoff matchup with Whitman on George Ball at Sherwood Center.

But the Missionaries used numerous scoring streaks — including a 19-6 surge midway through the second half — and 24 Bruins’ turnovers to post a 90-78 victory.

Josh Duckworth scored a team-high 17 points while NWC Player of the Year Ben Eisenhardt and Matt Mounier tallied 16 apiece as Whitman improved its record to 19-7 with its eighth straight win.

The Missionaries will face Northwest Conference regular-season champion Whitworth, a 74-69 winner over Lewis & Clark on Thursday, for the conference’s postseason title on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Spokane.

Whitman found itself down 13-8 just two-and-a-half minutes into the opening half. The Missionaries rebounded from the slow start and claimed a five-point lead, 20-15 after a 12-2 run. Five different Whitman players scored over the 2:52 stretch that ended on a Dominic Lippi 3-pointer from the right wing with 14:14 left in the first half.

George Fox closed within one, 20-19, before the Missionaries expanded their lead to 12, 33-21, after a 13-2 surge. Peter Clark’s straight-on 3 at the 10:42 mark ended the blitz.

The Bruins got back in the game with a 12-2 run and stayed within striking distance of the lead until the final 2:16 of the half. Duckworth hit a jumper with 1.8 seconds on the clock to close out an 8-2 run and give Whitman a 48-40 lead at halftime.

George Fox opened the second half with an 8-1 spurt prior to a Missionary run of 9-3 that resulted in a 58-51 Whitman advantage.

The Bruins scored 11 of the next 15 points to tie the game at 62-all with 12:32 to go.

Twenty-three seconds later, Duckworth cashed in a George Fox turnover with a dunk that commenced the Missionaries game-deciding run. Mounier, Eisenhardt and Drew Raher keyed the rally with four points apiece as Whitman claimed an 81-68 lead with six minutes left.

“They hit us and we hit back,” Whitman coach Eric Bridgeland said. “When he (Eisenhardt) gets the ball, he’s a match-up problem. We got some timely scoring out of (Eisenhardt and Duckworth).

“I was pleased with our half-court defense. We had good ball pressure,” Bridgeland said. “We got to the glass in the second half a lot better.”

“This was playoff basketball,” Eisenhardt said. “They weren’t going to lay down.”

George Fox’s Sean Atkins, who recorded game highs of 25 points and eight rebounds, brought the Bruins within seven, 85-78, on a trey with 1:48 remaining.

But the Missionaries put the game out of reach by hitting five of six free throws in the final 1:31 to seal the deal.

Eisenhardt is looking forward to Saturday’s game.

“It’s an intense rivalry,” Eisenhardt said. “It’ll be fun to be in that environment and play a quality team like Whitworth.”

Whitman 90, George Fox 78

GEORGE FOX (78) — Sanchez 7-11 3-4 17, Grant 2-3 0-0 5, Brent 6-9 0-0 14, Atkins 10-16 4-5 25, Adrian 3-3 2-2 8, Garlington 2-4 0-0 5, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Bolte 2-6 0-0 4, Zandbergen0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-52 9-11 78.

WHITMAN (90) — Mounier 5-9 3-4 16, Eisenhardt 8-17 0-0 16, Duckworth 6-13 3-4 17, Lippi 2-6 2-2 7, Raher 3-7 4-4 11, Clough 0-0 0-0 0, Callahan 0-0 0-0 0, Pavilonis 1-4 0-0 2, Chircu 0-0 0-0 0, Durham 1-3 0-0 2, Clark 3-4 0-0 9, Gilkey 3-7 4-5 10. Totals 32-70 16-19 90.

Halftime score — Whitman 48-40. 3-point goals — George Fox 5-17 (Brent 2-4, Grant 1-2, Garlington 1-3, Atkins 1-4, Bolte 0-1, Sanchez 0-3), Whitman 10-24 (Clark 3-4, Mounier 3-5, Duckworth 2-3, Raher 1-4, Lippi 1-5, Pavilonis 0-3). Total fouls — George Fox 18, Whitman 16. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — George Fox 32 (Atkins 8), Whitman 31 (Mounier 6, Eisenhardt 6). Turnovers — George Fox 24, Whitman 7. Assists — George Fox 15 (Sanchez 5, Grant 5), Whitman 15 (Duckworth 4).

NWC All-Star Team

First team

Name School Position Class

Ben Eisenhardt Whitman F Jr.

Wade Gebbers Whitworth G Sr.

Dustin McConnell Whitworth G Jr.

Sean Atkins George Fox F Jr.

Colin Wester Pacific (Ore.) G Sr.

James Hollins Lewis & Clark G Sr.

Second team

Name School Position Class

Josh Duckworth Whitman G Jr.

Cameron Schilling PLU W Sr.

Anthony Sanchez George Fox G Sr.

Ross Erickson Lewis & Clark G/F Sr.

Colton McCargar Whitworth G Jr.

Honorable mention

Name School Position Class

Dexter Pearce Lewis & Clark G Sr.

Andrew Batiuk Linfield C So.

Danny Brakebush Pacific (Ore.) G/F Fr.

Rex Holmes Puget Sound G Sr.

Matt Mounier Whitman F So.

Taylor Farnsworth Whitworth P So.

Terrell Malley Willamette G Sr.

NWC Coach of the Year: Mark Sundquist, George Fox

NWC Player of the Year: Ben Eisenhardt, Whitman

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