WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Scorching the nets at a 58 percent clip during the first half, the Whitman Missionaries showed off their deft shooting touch on the way to a 91-63 victory over the Linfield Wildcats in Northwest Conference men's basketball action Saturday night at Sherwood Center.
With the win, the Missionaries (16-7, 11-3 NWC) are assured of no worse than second place in the NWC. Whitman also secured home court for at least the first round of the conference playoffs.
Against the Wildcats, the Missionaries were the most impressive the further away from the rim they got, connecting on more than half their 3-point attempts. Whitman canned 14 shots from outside the arc in 27 attempts, including 7-of-12 long bombs in the first half that enabled the hosts to open up a 52-38 advantage at the break.
Led by the 14 points of Jackson Gion (Fr., Morgan Hill, Calif.) and 13 more from Chris Dirks (Jr., Hood River, Ore.), Linfield shot 42 percent from the field for the game and 36 percent from 3-point range, figures too low to keep pace with the white-hot Missionaries.
Whitman enjoyed a noticeable advantage from the free throw line in the first half, going 8-for-9 from the charity stripe. Linfield wasn't awarded its first free throw until 55 seconds remained in the first period. At that point, Whitman's lead had grown to a dozen points.
Gion, a reserve, made 5-of-8 shots from the field in the opening half, scoring 11 of his 14 points before the break. Gion also snagged a game-high seven rebounds, two on the offensive glass. Dirks came off the bench to hit 6-of-7 from the floor while adding five rebounds.
Five Missionaries reached double figures in the scoring column. Dominic Lippi tallied a game-high 15 points off the bench, Matt Mourier netted 14, Jackson Clough had 11, and Tochi Oti and LuQuam Thompson both contributed 10 points.
Wildcats guard Ryan Cali (Jr., San Jose, Calif.) accounted for a six rebounds to go along with five points and an assist.
AHEAD: Linfield continues its grueling run of three games in five days. Tuesday night at 8 o'clock, Linfield hosts Willamette in a game rescheduled from Feb. 8 by snow. The Wildcats then wrap up the season Friday night at Pacific followed by a home date Saturday against Pacific Lutheran.
14 points, game-high 7 rebounds
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