Valle's buzzer-beater lifts Whitworth over UPS

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Whitworth celebrates its last-second win.
Photo by Ronnie Glover,

TACOMA, Wash. – George Valle's putback basket as time expired lifted visiting Whitworth to a come-from-behind 67-65 win over Puget Sound in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Friday night at Memorial Fieldhouse.

The third-ranked Pirates rallied from a nine-point second half deficit to improve to 23-1 overall and 14-1 in the NWC. Whitworth has clinched at least a share of its seventh straight NWC title.

Valle drove for the game-tying basket with 39 seconds to play and Whitworth forced a Logger turnover with 14.6 seconds left to set up a game-winning shot. After a timeout, Kenny Love took the inbounds pass and came up court. As time was running down Love drove through traffic and his shot bounced high off the rim. Valle jumped for the rebound in the middle of the key and put the ball back through the hoop in one motion as the horn sounded. 

"I've never hit a shot at the buzzer before, but I've missed plenty," Valle said after the game. "Once we got the stop on defense there was a collective feeling that we would get it done. I saw Kenny had a contested shot and I was looking to crash the boards and I ended up in the right place at the right time."

Puget Sound (13-11 overall, 8-7 NWC) led almost the entire second half after the teams were tied 34-34 at halftime. The Loggers scored the first six points of the second period, including a pair of baskets by Kohl Meyer. Whitworth managed to get back within a point after a basket by Drew Sears, but UPS responded and took a 57-48 lead with ten minutes to play on Kyle King's layup.

That's when Love took over for the Pirates. He scored 13 of his game-high 24 points over the next eight minutes, including three 3-pointers, to get Whitworth back into striking distance. Then Valle scored the final six points of the game for the Bucs.

Whitworth jumped out to a 14-4 lead five minutes into the game. But the Loggers answered with an 8-0 run and it was a close battle from that point.

In addition to Love's 24 points, Valle finished with 17 points and eight rebounds for the Pirates. Sears added ten points and eight boards. Whitworth shot only 38 percent from the field, but outrebounded the Loggers 44-32, including a 14-4 edge in offensive boards.

Carlos Mancasola led UPS with 17 points off of the bench, including five 3-pointers, while King added 15 points. But Meyer was the Loggers' star. He finished with nine points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and four steals.

Whitworth will close the regular season at Pacific Lutheran on Saturday night. A win will clinch an outright NWC title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.