SPOKANE, Wash. – Kyle Roach scored 33 of his 35 points after halftime to lead Whitworth to a 107-98 overtime victory over visiting George Fox, clinching at least one home game for his team in the upcoming Northwest Conference men's basketball tournament.
For the third game in a row the 15th-ranked Pirates (19-4 overall, 11-3 NWC) had to rally at home against a conference foe for victory. This one clinched second place in the NWC regular season standings and the right to host a conference semifinal on Thursday, February 21st. It means one more home game for the four Pirate seniors.
"The word we talked about in shoot-around today was 'joy'," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "These seniors have invested so much into the program and the relationships with their teammates. They played with that joy tonight and the rest of the team rallied around that."
Like Lewis & Clark and Linfield, Whitworth's last two opponents, George Fox (12-11, 6-8) took a significant first half lead. After the Pirates went up 30-27 on a pair of Ben College free throws, the Bruins reeled off a 13-1 run to open up a 40-31 advantage after a three-pointer by JD Ahlstrom and a basket from Dylan Hamlett. Whitworth trailed 40-33 at the break when Jordan Lester made two free throws with ten seconds to play. The Bucs are fortunate they were not behind by more because GFU made 51% (18-35) from the field in the first half while Whitworth made only 32.4% (11-34). The Bruins also held a 23-18 edge in rebounding before the break.
That's when Roach got going. He went 9-11 from the floor, including 5-6 from three-point range, and 10-10 at the free throw line after halftime to lead Whitworth's charge. His basket gave the Pirates a 52-50 lead, it's first since there was five minutes to play in the opening half. The Bruins would not go away, however, and retook a 65-61 lead after a basket by Mason Green-Richards. Whitworth trailed 89-86 when Isaiah Hernandez converted a three-point play with 45 seconds to go to tie the game. Hamlett's put-back basket put the visitors back up by two, but College calmly sank a pair of free throws with five seconds left to force a 91-91 tie. Green-Richards had a good look at a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer, but it bounced off the back rim.
Roach was nearly unstoppable in overtime, scoring 14 of Whitworth's 16 points and draining a pair of three-pointers that gave the Bucs an early lead in the extra period that they would not relinquish.
"Obviously Kyle is one of the best players in Whitworth history and he has stepped up in so many big situations for us," Logie said.
College added 23 points for the Pirates, who shot 54.5% (18-33) in the second half and 57% (4-7) in overtime. Hernandez finished with 15 points and Christy totaled 13. Lester had eight points, eight rebounds and six assists. Whitworth was also successful getting to the free throw line where the Bucs made 29-33 attempts (88%).
Green-Richards finished with 26 points to lead George Fox, while Hamlett had 18 points and nine boards. Ryan Lacey contributed 17 and Ahlstrom added 14 off the bench.
Whitworth will close the regular season with games at Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound next weekend. With one more victory the Pirates will clinch their 14th 20-win season, the second-longest active streak in NCAA Division III.