4 Whits on all-NWC teams
WALLA WALLA — The Whitman men’s basketball team landed four players on the All-Northwest Conference teams with junior Matt Mounier and sophomore Tochi Oti leading the way.
Mounier and Oti were named to the All-NWC second team, while Ben Eisenhardt and Evan Martin earned honorable mention. Mounier, who led the Missionaries with 14.4 points per game, started all 25 games this season. Oti, who was second to Mounier with 12.4 points per game, finished third in the conference with two steals per game.
Eisenhardt, who battled injuries throughout the season, returned midway through the conference slate to average 15.9 points per game on 55 percent shooting from the floor. Martin, who appeared in Eisenhardt’s absence, led the NWC by shooting 62 percent this year while averaging 10 points and 6.5 boards per game.
WALLA WALLA — Poor shooting doomed the Whitman men’s basketball team in the Northwest Conference semifinals against Puget Sound on Thursday.
The Missionaries, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, finished 23-of-66 from the floor, including a dreary 5-of-28 mark from beyond the 3-point line, as the Loggers took advantage in the 71-66 win.
“We just couldn’t hit shots,” Missionary coach Eric Bridgeland said. “In the second half, we felt like we had to get the game going up-and-down and we did. It gave us a shot.
“But at the end of the day, you’ve got to make shots and we didn’t make shots,” he added. “A lot of that has to do with UPS’s defense.”
Whitman’s Tochi Oti carried the Missionary offense in the second half, as he scored 19 of his team-high 21 points after halftime. Oti, who battled foul trouble through the first period, tied the game at 47 with a 17-foot pullup at the 12-minute mark. The two teams continued to trade baskets, with Oti adding a right-handed driving bank shot with nine minutes left.
But Puget Sound’s efficient offense capitalized down the stretch, as the Loggers scored on four straight possessions to open a 63-58 lead with a little over four minutes remaining. Oti would not be deterred, however, as he nailed back-to-back pullup jumpers before gliding into the lane through contact to score an and-one, which tied the game at 65.
“Tochi’s come a long ways,” Bridgeland said. “He was a guy that didn’t play hardly at all last year as a freshman and he’s really surfaced as one of our best players. He made a will-to-win run in the second half by himself to give us a shot.”
Oti’s effort went for naught though, as the Missionaries could only add one point in the final three minutes while the Loggers’ AJ Maw iced the game with a layup and two crucial free throws.
Bridgeland said the Missionaries employed a press during the second half in hopes of getting the offense going, but could not capitalize on Puget Sound’s 18 turnovers.
“It was more for our offense more than anything else,” he said. “When you can’t hit perimeter shots, you’ve got to open the game up a little bit and get to the rim and we did that. I felt like that gave us a chance.”
Behind Oti, center Ben Eisenhardt scored 11 points and nabbed a team-high six rebounds. Bridgeland credited Eisenhardt for his constant effort in a season marred by injuries.
“When you miss two and a half months, this is still like the preseason for him,” Bridgeland said of Eisenhardt, who missed 17 games this year. “It’s hard for him to get into a rhythm. He had a great week of practice.”
Along with Eisenhardt, senior Josh Duckworth also missed seven weeks due to injury. With two of his top options on the shelf, Bridgeland got tremendous production from Oti and sophomore Evan Martin, who played 13 minutes in the semifinal against Puget Sound.
“I’m so proud of our young players that stepped up — Tochi, Evan, Matt (Mounier) — I’m just so proud of how we responded,” Bridgeland said. “To finish the regular season in second place without those guys being major parts of it is very admirable.”
The Missionaries will lose Duckworth, Eisenhardt and fellow senior LuQuam Thompson to graduation. Thompson, who battled two separate ACL injuries during his tenure at Whitman, finished the regular season on a roll with double-digit scoring in five of his final six games.
“He just started getting his feel and his athleticism back,” Bridgeland said. “He really, really came on when we needed him.”
PUGET SOUND 71, WHITMAN 66
PUGET SOUND (71) — Nelson 11-18 3-4 25, Barber 5-7 2-2 13, Maw 4-9 4-6 12, Holden 3-6 4-6 10, Osorio 1-4 1-2 3, Cheledinas 3-7 0-0 6, Shattuck 1-2 0-0 2, Reid 0-2 0-2 0, Dowdell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-55 14-22 71.
WHITMAN (66) — Oti 9-17 3-3 21, Eisenhardt 3-7 5-8 11, Callahan 3-5 0-0 7, Thompson 0-5 5-6 5, Mounier 1-11 0-2 2, Lippi 3-9 0-0 7, Duckworth 2-2 0-0 6, Chircu 1-3 1-2 2, Clough 1-7 0-0 2, Martin 0-0 1-2 1, Durham 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-66 15-23 66.
Halftime score — UPS 29, Whit 28. 3-point goals — UPS 1-9 (Barber), Whit 5-28 (Duckworth 2, Callahan, Lippi, Chircu). Total fouls — UPS 20, Whit 20. Fouled out — UPS (Osorio). Technical fouls — Whit (Mounier). Total rebounds — UPS 37 (Holden 8), Whit 39 (Eisenhardt 6). Turnovers — UPS 18, Whit 14. Assists — UPS 13 (Maw 4, Reid 4), Whit 4 (Callahan, Mounier, Thompson, Chircu).