McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Freshman guard George Valle scored a season-high 30 points and No. 12 Whitworth cruised to an overwhelming 86-53 Northwest Conference victory over Linfield Friday night inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Whitworth clinched its fourth straight NWC regular-season championship with the victory as the Pirates improved to 21-3 on the season and 13-2 in conference play.
Valle’s 30 carried the Pirates, and another 11 points from Dustin McConnell provided enough insurance to carry Whitworth to the win. The Pirates outrebounded the ‘Cats on the day 42-33, and Whitworth shot 55.9 percent from the floor compared with Linfield’s 33.3 percent rate.
Brandon Harris and Cory Hendryx (Sr., Scappoose, Ore.) were the top scorers - with 17 and 10 respectively - for Linfield, which dropped to 4-20 on the season and 3-12 in NWC play with the loss.
The teams were both ice cold from the opening tip, but Taylor Farnsworth finally broke the silence with a layup three minutes into the game. The Pirates built their momentum into a 13-0 run as the ‘Cats failed to score through the first 8:00 of play.
Harris struck from downtown to put the ‘Cats on the board and Chris Dirks (Jr., Hood River, Ore.) added a free throw to give Linfield four straight points. Jake Hillyer added a three that made the score 18-9, but Whitworth maintained a steady advantage moving through the middle part of the first.
Kevin Hurley (Soph., Portland, Ore.) grabbed a carom and fed the ball down court to Harris. The standout guard pump-faked past one defender before finishing a slick bank shot to bring the ‘Cats within seven 25-18.
Intensity picked up moving into the closing minutes of the first, and Valle’s 11th point of the half extended the Pirates’ lead to eight with less than two minutes until the break. Another three from Valle made the spread 10, and the teams headed to the locker rooms with the score at 32-22, advantage Pirates.
Valle led all scorers with 14 in the first, and Harris paced the ‘Cats with nine on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor. The Pirates benefitted from five steals in the first and scored eight points off of turnovers. Linfield shot just 31.8 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, while Whitworth sat at a solid 50 percent.
It only took 1:30 for the first bucket of the second half to fall, as McConnell converted a tip-in for the Pirates. Valle posted the next seven points and Whitworth burst ahead to a commanding 41-24 lead.
Tim Logan nailed a three with 6:39 remaining and Linfield pulled within 15. The ‘Cats failed to cut any further into the Pirates’ lead, as Whitworth closed the game strong to ensure the win.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Harris’ 81.2 free throw percentage is good for fourth in the NWC…the sophomore guard is also 10th in the conference in assists per game, averaging 2.6…the Pirates have gone undefeated against the ‘Cats since the 2007-08 season when Linfield downed Whitworth 77-70 on Jan. 4 in McMinnville.
AHEAD: Linfield closes out the 2012-13 season Saturday night as the ‘Cats host Whitman at a special start time of 6 p.m. The final contest will also mark Senior Night for the Wildcats, and directly follows the women’s matchup against the Missionaries.
Linfield's leading scorer (17) and rebounder (6)
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128