WOOSTER, Ohio -- So many of the shots that fell all season would not go in on Saturday night and top-ranked Whitworth's season came to an end after a 76-66 loss at 5th-ranked Wooster in the sectional final of the NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament at Timken Gymnasium.
The Pirates end the season with a record of 28-2, the most victories in school history. The Fighting Scots (30-2) advance to their third final four since 2004.
Michael Taylor (Brewster) led all players with 25 points, but had to work hard for every point and finished 8-20 from the floor. Jack Loofburrow came off of the bench for 14 points, while Felix Friedt scored 10 points and grabbed ten rebounds. David Riley scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
Two-time North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year Ian Franks led Wooster with 19 points. But it might have been reserve guard Justin Warnes who made the biggest impact on the game. He scored 11 points, despite a 3.3 point per game average, and played the best defense against Michael Taylor that any other NCAA Division III player had played this season.
Whitworth got off to a good start in front of the 3,330 gold and black clad fans, taking a 12-5 lead on a three-pointer by Loofburrow. Loofburrow drained another three to give the Pirates their largest lead of the game at 27-19 with 6:14 to play in the half.
But Wooster closed the half on an 18-4 run, including three straight three-pointers - back to back treys by Matt Fegan, and went into the locker room with a 37-33 lead.
Warnes hit one of his career-high three three-pointers three and a half minutes into the second half, lifting Wooster to a 45-37 lead and sending the large crowd into bedlam. But Taylor answered with a three of his own, sparking a Whitworth run that gave the Bucs a 51-49 advantage following a three-point play by Riley with 8:30 to go.
But the Scots came out of a timeout and got a three by Nathan Balch to go back in front 52-51 and Wooster would not trail again.
As the final key minutes ticked away, Loofburrow, Taylor and Riley all had good looking shots that seemed halfway down and came out. Taylor hit his final three to get Whitworth within 69-64 with 41 seconds left, but Wooster hit 7-8 from the free throw line to keep the Pirates at bay.
Whitworth shot 40% (23-57) from the field, only 37% in the second half. While the Pirates outrebounded the Scots 37-30, they committed an uncharacteristically high 13 turnovers. Wooster shot 45% (23-51), including 52% (11-21) from three-point range.
Wooster will advance to play Williams in one of Friday's NCAA Division III semifinals. It is a rematch of a 2003 semifinal between the schools.
Whitworth came within a game of becoming the first school from the west coast to reach the NCAA Division III men's final four since 1982.