Whit men fall to Puget Sound in playoffs

Pamela London

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One and done: The double-edged sword of the collegiate basketball postseason hit the Whitman men’s basketball team the hard way last Thursday night as the Missionaries fell 79-62 to the University of Puget Sound.

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Despite winning five of seven games to finish off the season at 11-5 in conference, Whitman lost the battle for the second seed in the Northwest Conference tournament to Puget Sound by way of a head-to-head tiebreaker. The Loggers swept the season series, setting up a semi-final match-up in Tacoma, Wash.

“Our record was actually much better on the road then it was at home…so we were excited to play on the road,” said sophomore Jordan Dickson.

Puget Sound came out strong from the get-go, scoring the game’s first nine points and taking a double-digit lead into halftime (41-28). Whitman responded in a big way, going on an 18-8 run to begin the second half and cutting the Loggers’ lead to only three with 12 minutes to go.

“We felt we didn’t come out with the same sense of urgency as they did,” said coach Eric Bridgeland of his halftime adjustments. “We decided to not match their effort but to play harder than them. We also simplified what we were running offensively.”

After Puget Sound went on a run of its own, Whitman responded again and drew within six points with eight minutes to play. But the Missionaries’ final run took the steam out of their engine and the Loggers pulled away to maintain a double-digit lead the rest of the game.

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“[I] don’t really know what it was about them, for some reason they just had our number,” said senior forward David Michaels.

Michaels, the NWC Player of the Year, led the way with 28 points and shot 50 percent from the field but did not receive much support from his teammates: No other Missionaries scored in double figures.

Thursday’s loss was the final game in a Whitman uniform for Michaels, Brandon Shaw, Juan Pablo Alvarez and D.J. Wright. All four seniors saw action in the game, with Shaw contributing five points and a steal.

“I’m gonna really miss the brotherhood that we have formed here,” said Michaels of his fellow seniors.

The loss not only marked the end of another season but also the end of an era of sorts for the coaching staff and senior class, both of whom arrived on campus in the fall of 2007.

“We truly, literally, arrived together,” said Bridgeland. “When they arrived here, Whitman had been consistently in the bottom third of the conference. Our seniors leave having left their mark on the wall with the two best seasons in the last 25 years.” +

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