SPOKANE, Wash. - The Lewis & Clark men's basketball team held a slim first half lead on Friday night against #8 Whitworth but were unable to overcome a strong second half by the Pirates falling 77-69 in their Northwest Conference opener.
The Pioneers are now 3-3 on the season and 0-1 in NWC action. The Pirates, who are the defending NWC Champions, improve to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in conference play.
Junior James Hollins led the Pioneers with a team-high 19 points. Senior Marcus Wells netted 17 points for the Pios, while Ross Erickson chipped in 14 points. Freshman Caron Rayford scored 11 points for the Pioneers.
Felix Friedt finished the contest with a double-double for the Pirates, scoring a game-high 23 points anad collecting a match-high 10 rebounds. Wade Gebbers was the only other Pirate to score in double digits, netting 17 points.
It took the Pioneers a while to get their offense going, falling behind to the Pirates 17-4 with 11:29 left to play in the first half. Wells put the Pioneers back in the contest, handing the Pioneers their first lead of the contest with a huge three pointer with 4:05 to play.
Friedt earned the lead back for Whitworth with a little over two minutes before the half putting the Pirates up 25-24. With just 16 seconds left on the clock, Hollins drained a shot from distance to send the Pioneers into the locker room ahead 29-27.
In the first half, the Pioneer bench came up huge, scoring 19 of the teams 29 points compared to the Pirates five bench points.
Erickson extended the Pioneers lead to three points, 32-29, with 19:13 remaining in the game with a successful free-throw.
Mark Larkin put the Pirates in control of the scoreboard with a layup on a rebound with 17:06. The Pioneers tied the contest up at 36-36 moments later with a Rayford layup, but the Pioneers would not regain the lead in the second half.
With half of the second period gone the Pirates cruised to a 54-43 advantage with a Michael Taylor layup. The Pioneers fought back within three points with under six minutes remaining with a monster three pointer from Rayford. Lewis & Clark kept the Pirates within three points with two minutes remaining but fouls down the stretch would allow Whitworth to pull away for the eight point victory.
The Pioneers return to action on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. when they take on the Whitman Missionaries.