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January 7, 2012

Whitman Holds Off Pacific Lutheran in Men's Hoops

PARKLAND - Another gritty performance came up just short for Pacific Lutheran for the second straight night as visiting Whitman College held on for a 58-57 Northwest Conference men's basketball win Saturday night in Olson Auditorium.

Ignas Pavalonis broke a 54-54 tie with a three-point shot from the top of the key with a minute left, and Whitman survived Cameron Schilling's miss from 16 feet with three seconds remaining and held on for the victory. The Missionaries improved their overall record to 9-4 and their conference mark to 2-2, while PLU fell to 5-8 overall and 2-2 in the NWC.

Over the past two nights, the Lutes played 2011 conference champion Whitworth and conference tournament runner-up Whitman. The Lutes took Whitworth to two overtimes before losing 103-94, and today the game came down to the final seconds.

Whitman scored the game's first six points, including a pair of layups by David Michaels, and later took a 10-point lead at 16-6 on Josh Duckworth's jumper just 5 ½ minutes into the contest.

PLU responded with a 10-0 run, led off by consecutive three-point baskets by Schilling and James Conti, to tie the game at 16-16 with 12 minutes left in the period. Schilling gave the Lutes their first lead of the game one minute later, drilling another three-ball to make the score 19-18.

After that, there were five more lead changes and two ties. Luquam Thompson hit a pair of free throws with 1:53 on the clock before Drew Earnest hit a tough short jumper while under duress to pull the Lutes to within three points, 33-30, at the break.

Michaels was especially tough on PLU early, scoring 15 of his game-high 19 points in the opening half.

The second half saw four lead changes and two ties, and to show how close the game was through the final 20 minutes, neither team led by more than four points. PLU's largest lead in the period was only two points, 43-41, after Arvid Isaksen hit a three-ball from the left corner with 11:33 on the clock. Whitman enjoyed a 52-48 edge with 2:47 left after Pavalonis nailed the first of his two important late-game three-point baskets. 

With his team trailing by four, Cameron Reister hit a three-pointer to make it a one-point game, and after Thompson got to the rim for a layin that made the score 54-51 with 2:24 remaining, Reister nailed another trey to tie it at 54-54 with 1:14 to play.

That set up Pavalonis for his final big shot. After Schilling's miss, Whitman's Matt Mounier won a scramble on the floor for the loose ball, and he called a timeout with one second on the clock. The Lutes intercepted Whitman's three-quarter court inbounds pass but didn't have enough time to get off a shot.

Schilling continued his outstanding play this season, leading the Lutes with 16 points and eight rebounds. Reister and Kai Hoyt both chipped in with nine points for PLU, which shot 39 percent (22-for-56) from the field. Reister hit a trio of three-point shots as the Lutes finished 8-for-19 from beyond the arc. James Conti had five assists for PLU.

Michaels was Whitman's only player in double figures, while Pavalonis led all players with 10 rebounds, all on the defensive end. Thompson had five assists for the Missionaries, who shot 45 percent (22-for-49) for the game.

Pacific Lutheran is back in Northwest Conference action on Tuesday, hosting the Puget Sound Loggers. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Olson Auditorium.

- PLU -