Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – The Whittier College Men's Basketball team put on a show Friday evening inside of the Graham Athletic Center as they won the 2016 Purple & Gold Poet Classic Title as they held off Linfield College 71-67.
The Purple & Gold finish the Classic 2-0 with wins over La Sierra University and now Linfield and extend their winning streak to three games and move back to .500 at 4-4.
Tournament MVP Eric Davis (Ventura, Calif.) provided the spark for Whittier in a number of ways. Despite only putting up eight points, he proved big inside with four boards, two assists, two steals, and four big blocks that changed the momentum of the game.
He was joined on the All-Tournament team by freshman Nick Potthoff (Phoenix, AZ) who was on the other side of the spectrum who went off in points putting up another double digit effort with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, which included six three-pointers.
Potthoff and Louis Kurihara (Culver City, Calif.) struck first for the Purple & Gold with back to back three-pointers that got things started. The game then turned into a low scoring affair soon after and baskets were hard to come by. A 9-2 run midway through the half turned the momentum back with the Wildcats as they went in front 17-14 but Chris Kapano (Los Alamitos, Calif.) and Potthoff would add a couple jumpers that gave WC back the lead 18-17.
Potthoff then caught fire in a minutes span and Whittier fed him on back to back trips down and he unloaded from the corner with two three-pointers that put Whittier on top 24-19. With the momentum in their favor and a minute left in the half, it would all change. Davis would come up with a huge block and would then be called for a technical foul for taunting which would then spur a 6-0 run by Linfield that gave them a 28-24 advantage. But Davis though bounced back in a big way as time expired converting a three-point play the old fashioned way that brought the Poets within one at intermission.
The halftime speech from Head Coach Rock Carter must have struck a vein because Whittier came out fired up and unleashed a barrage of triples and couldn't miss as they hit 46% from the field. Kapano and Conner Longmire (Tarzana, Calif.) got things rolling with a jumper and three-pointer. After a Mason Rodby layup, Longmire and Potthoff combined for another two three-pointers that gave Whittier a 38-32 lead.
Longmire would add another five points that kept the momentum moving increasing the lead to eight. Linfield added a 6-0 spurt that pulled them within two at 43-41 but again Potthoff would thwart the rally with another dagger from deep, while Kapano continued to penetrate inside.
A little 5-0 push that covered two minutes soon after capped off with a Jordan Lingard (DU, Australia) layup would increase the lead to 53-44. But with under two minutes to play, Linfield made their push adding a layup and two free throws that kept them within striking distance at 65-61.
Kapano, Davis, and Longmire would each make the front end of a pair of free throws with :32 seconds to play but even a lead at 68-62 wouldn't be safe as the Wildcats would get a layup from Negasi Hart and a three-pointer from Vince Romeo that pulled Linfield within a one possession game with :07 to play.
On the other end, following a quick foul, Anthony Martinez (Cerritos, Calif.) would miss the first of two free throws but would ice the game as he would convert the second allowing the Poets to hold on for the home victory.
Kapano had a superb game with 14 points and three boards, three steals and an assist. Longmire added 12 going 3-of-6 from deep, while Kurihara chipped in with five points with three assists, two steals, and four rebounds.
Whittier shot 45% from the field and 37% from the three-point line. They again were outrebounded 40-32 but forced 20 turnovers and added 13 points off of them.
Whittier returns to action in the New Year as they host West Coast Baptist on Thursday, January 5 beginning at 7:00pm.