SPOKANE – Christian Jurlina and Colton McCargar combined for 45 points to lead 15th-ranked Whitworth to an 87-62 win over visiting Lewis & Clark in the semifinals of the 2014 NWC men's basketball tournament on Thursday night.
The Pirates improved to 21-5 and will host the NWC tournament championship on Saturday night at 7:00 pm against third-seeded Puget Sound, a 71-66 upset winner of Thursday's other semifinal at second-seeded Whitman.
Whitworth shot 57% from the field in the game, led by the two high scorers. Jurlina scored 23 points off of the bench, making 10 of 15 from the field, while McCargar had 22 points while making 8-14 from the floor.
Whitworth jumped to an early 9-4 lead on a short jumper by Taylor Farnsworth, but the Pioneers rallied to take an 11-9 lead on a three-pointer by Serg Ovchinnikov with 13:59 to play in the first half. It would be Lewis & Clark's only lead of the game. Whitworth scored the next six, capped by Jurlina's three-point play, to retake control. The Pirates still only led 16-14 following Kurt Parker's layup with just over ten minutes left in the half, but used a quick 9-0 run to open their first double digit lead (25-14) on McCargar's three-pointer. A Jurlina three-pointer gave Whitworth its largest lead of the opening half (43-29) before L&C closed to within 45-34 at halftime.
Jason Luhnow's three-pointer highlighted a 6-0 run for L&C to start the second half, pulling the Pioneers within 45-40. But Whitworth answered with a 7-0 streak of its own to go back ahead 52-40. L&C had one more surge, pulling within 52-48 on Randall Jackson's basket with 13:51 to go. But George Valle answered at the other end for the Pirates, sparking a 15-4 spurt that gave Whitworth a 67-52 lead with under ten minutes to play. The Pioneers never cut the margin below double digits after that.
The statistic of the game was turnovers. Whitworth committed a season-low three turnovers against L&C's pressure defense, while forcing 15 giveaways from the Pioneers.
Dustin McConnell, who was voted by conference coaches as the NWC Player of the Year earlier this week, finished with 15 points and eight assists. Valle scored ten points to give the Bucs their fourth player in double figures. Farnsworth led Whitworth with six rebounds as the Pirates finished with a slight edge on the boards (26-25).
Lewis & Clark finishes the season with a record of 17-9. Parker and Ovchinnikov led the Pioneers with 14 and 13 points off of the bench, respectively. Bradley Carter and Quintin Sims scored ten points apiece and Connor Freeberg led all players with eight rebounds. L&C made 54% of its shots in the first half, but only 43% after halftime to finish 49% from the field overall.
Thursday's game marked the third straight year, and fourth time in the last five seasons, that Whitworth and Lewis & Clark have met in the NWC tournament semifinals. Whitworth has won all four contests.
The Pirates look to secure their eighth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division III tournament if they can win Saturday night's NWC tournament championship game. Whitworth and Puget Sound will be meeting in the tournament final for the second time in three years.