And yet so disheartening.
Coach Steve Dickerson said his Pacific Lutheran University men’s basketball team could not play much better than it did Friday night at defending Northwest Conference champion Whitworth.
But George Valle’s layup with 54 seconds to go broke a tie, and the Pirates survived, 76-73, at Whitworth Fieldhouse in Spokane.
Colton McCargar led Whitworth (9-3, 3-0 in NWC) with 21 points. Bryce Miller led all scorers with a career-high 22 points in what was easily his best showing for the Lutes.
And after Whitworth’s Christian Jurlina split two free throws to give the Pirates a 75-73 lead with 14 seconds to go, the Lutes called time out to set up a play for Miller, a 6-foot-6 sophomore out of Fife.
“We wanted him to have it or kick it to our shooters,” PLU coach Steve Dickerson said. “He had a good look – a real good look.”
But Miller’s wide-open layup hit the rim and came out. The Pirates rebounded the ball.
Again, Jurlina made one of two free throws. With four seconds to go, PLU tried throwing a pass the length of the court to set up a game-tying 3-pointer but was called for kicking the ball, and the Lutes turned it over.
PLU (4-8, 1-2) led 41-32 in the first minute of the second half before the Pirates scored the next 10 points, setting up a back-and-forth second half.
PLU shot 53.3 percent from the floor (32 of 60) but were badly outshot at the free-throw line, 28-9.
“We can’t play any better,” Dickerson said. “Our kids deserved to win this game.”
At Whitman 94, Puget Sound 87 (OT): The Loggers (6-6, 2-1 in NWC) committed four crucial turnovers in overtime, and the Missionaries (7-5, 2-1) went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 25 seconds to win in Walla Walla – handing UPS its first NWC loss.
Rex Nelson led all scorers with 24 points for the Loggers. James Osorio added 20, and Erin Barber had 17.
At Whitman 84, UPS 62: The fourth-ranked Missionaries scored the first seven points, capped by Tiffani Traver’s 3-pointer, and Whitman (12-0, 3-0 in NWC) never looked back in rolling to an easy win in Walla Walla.
The Loggers (8-4, 1-2) cut it to 22-20 on Katy Ainslie’s jumper at the 5:05 mark in the first half, but Whitman went on an 11-0 run.
Emily Sheldon and Amanda Forshay led the Loggers with 10 points apiece.
At Whitworth 92, PLU 50: The Pirates (9-3, 3-0) made 10 3-pointers and pulled down 19 offensive rebounds in throttling the Lutes in Spokane.
PLU (5-7, 1-2) led 7-5 early before Whitworth went on a 16-1 run over the next 61/2 minutes to grab a 21-8 lead. The lead grew to 24 by halftime.
Samantha Potter had a game-high 13 points, and Katelyn Smith added 12.