After a weekend of electric crowds, furious rallies and stifling defense, the Whitman men’s and women’s basketball teams find themselves in a position where everyone wants to be: in line for a spot in the four-team Northwest Conference tournament.
Boisterous crowds filled Sherwood Center Friday and Saturday nights to watch the Missionary men and women combine to win three of four games against Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound.
Defense was the name of the game for the women both nights, holding the Tacoma schools to under 33 percent shooting.
“Defensively, we just took PLU out of their game completely,” said coach Michelle Ferenz. “We held them to 42 points, which is a low for them this season.”
Senior guard Jenele Peterson led the way with 12 points and seven assists in a 62-42 victory.
The women took the floor Saturday night in a winner-takes-third-place showdown with UPS. Once again, a strong defensive effort made the difference in a 66-59 victory over the Loggers, giving Whitman sole possession of third place in the NWC with four games remaining.
“UPS has one of the best shooting teams in the conference,” said Ferenz. “We did a great job for most of the game getting out on their shooters, and they didn’t get a lot of open looks. That is what we needed to do to get the win.”
After trailing by 16 midway through the second half, UPS hit six three-pointers over the next six minutes to cut their deficit to only three. Whitman was clinging to a four-point lead with less than 90 seconds to play, but Whitman hit four free throws to seal the win.
Peterson ran the offense efficiently for a second night in a row, finishing with 19 points and five assists while playing all 40 minutes. Sophomore Meghan White added eight points and nine rebounds.
“Beating both PLU and UPS on the road and then again at home was something that has not been done in a very long time, so everyone was very excited,” said Jenele Peterson.
The Whitman men entered two home games caught in a logjam at second place in the NWC with its two opponents for the weekend, PLU and UPS. The Missionaries split two close games, defeating PLU and falling to UPS.
“I feel we competed, but didn’t follow our game plan(s) particularly well,” said coach Eric Bridgeland.
Trailing by eight points, with under six minutes to play Friday night, the Missionaries finished the game on an 18-5 run to knock off the visiting Lutes.
Three days after being named to the D3hoops.com national team of the week, senior forward David Michaels poured in 30 points and nine rebounds in 32 minutes. Michaels also teamed with forwards junior Drew Raher and sophomore Ben Eisenhardt to play physical interior defense all night.
Saturday’s game with UPS was a grind-it-out battle that remained close throughout, and the game was not decided until less than a second remained.
Tied at 64 with 31 seconds to play, UPS’s Riggs Yarbro hit a jumper to put the Loggers up two points. After calling timeout, Whitman advanced the ball to frontcourt with 29 seconds to play. The Missionaries got the look they wanted, but could not convert, and UPS pulled out the win 66-64.
“I think that we played good, but not at the level we are capable of playing,” said Michaels. “We really needed to win both games this weekend, so it hurts to see us drop such a close game on Saturday.”
Despite the loss Saturday, the Whitman men remain tied for second place in the NWC at 8-4 with UPS and George Fox University. The three teams trail Conference leader Whitworth University by three games.
Both Missionary teams travel to Oregon next weekend to face Pacific University and Linfield College for the final road games of the season.
For more notes and quotes on the weekend’s action, visit the new Whitman Sports Blog at www.whitmanpioneer.com.