Off to a good start

Another Pipers season tips off with an exciting nonconference victory.

Gino Terrell, Reporter

On Saturday afternoon, Hamline men’s basketball opened their season in thrilling fashion.

Head coach Nelson Whitmore led the Pipers to a 92-86 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Lutheran Warriors at Hutton Arena.

“We had to fight for 45 minutes unfortunately tonight, but we’ll take it,” Whitmore said after the game.

At the start of the game, the Pipers took control of the tip off and scored on their first possession. The Warriors responded right back with a bucket of their own. That was just the start of this epic thriller.

Whitmore said the Pipers defense gave the Warriors too many open looks on offense, which the Warriors took advantage of in the first 15 minutes of play.

“When we give a team confidence like that on the road, it’s never good for us. I thought we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole in the first half,” Whitmore explained.

The Pipers were able to bounce back. As time expired, a crucial three pointer was made by senior Noah Aguirre. That gave the Pipers a 46-43 lead at half.

In the second half, both teams continued an up-tempo play that kept the game’s intensity alive.

The Warriors were starting to pull away with a 77-70 lead with 3:18 remaining in the second half, but the Pipers struck back with a quick 5-0 scoring run.

First, Ryan Welsh, first-year guard, drained a three point shot. Then first-year guard Wesley Pinera drew a foul to regain possession. Next, Pinera attacked the basket. After faking out a defender with spin move, he performed a finger roll layup in the face of another defender.

That scoring run kept the crowd cheering and clapping at Hutton Arena. With 1:31 remaining, the scored was held at 77-75. The crowd continuously chanted “DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE.” The Warriors swung the ball around as they tried to melt down the clock. Sophomore center Austin Johnson intercepted a pass, which got the crowd roaring louder.

On that possession, Aguirre was sent to the line but missed the first free throw. The Warriors regained possession and drained the clock down to 31.5 seconds, when the clock was stopped when Pinera was called for a reaching foul.

The foul sent the Warriors to the line holding a two point lead. They made the first free throw to make the game 78-75. The crowd got louder on his second attempt, and he missed. Aguirre rebounded the ball and the Pipers slowly took the ball up court.

As the time dwindled down, the Pipers swung the rock around to find a quality shot. The ball fell into the hands of Aguirre, and he took the shot. The ball fell through the hoop, touching nothing but net, which got everybody in the stands out of their seats and screaming.

The game was tied 78-78 with 6.8 seconds remaining. The Warriors quickly threw the ball deep down court and attempted a three; it bounced off the rim. Both teams fought for the rebound, and a foul was called on the Warriors with .2 a seconds left on the clock. Aguirre was sent to the free throw line. They had the bonus, so he would get two opportunities to close the game out.

The Pipers called a timeout before Aguirre went to the line. As he lined up, the Warriors called a timeout. It appeared they wanted to cool off Aguirre’s hot hand.

He missed the first attempt. Right before his second attempt, the Warriors called another timeout. When Aguirre missed again, the game was sent to overtime.

In overtime, with 2:34 remaining, the Warriors were up 83-81. Pinera was called for another foul and was fouled out. Sophomore guard Marshall Jestings was subbed in for him. Pinera’s foul sent the Warriors to the free throw line, and they made one of two from the line. The game was 84-81.

Aguirre responded right back with a bucket assisted by Jestings, 84-83. “DE-DE-DE-DEFENSE, DE-DE-DE-DEFENSE,” the crowd chanted as the Warriors moved down court. Jestings intercepted a pass that led to a Pipers fast break. They were up 85-84. The Pipers forced another turnover on the Warriors next possession that lead to another score, stretching the lead 87-84.

The Warriors responded with a layup. With 29.3 seconds remaining in the game, the Pipers were still up 87-86. Jestings was sent to the line as the Warriors played “the free throw game.” He made both free throws, 89-86. Welsh came up with an interception on a Warriors inbound pass that sealed the game. The final score was 92-86, and the Hamline Pipers were victorious in their season opener against Wisconsin Lutheran.

Despite the win, Whitmore was not entirely satisfied.

“I don’t think we played extremely well by any means,” he said.

However, he felt there were positives in this game for his team.

“We battled…we were able to fight through a five-point deficit to start overtime to come back and win…that’s a great testament to our guys,” Whitmore said. “As long as we play hard every night and continue to get better with the stuff we do, it should be a pretty good year for us.”

Their next game is Tuesday, Nov. 20, against University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

“We lost there by two points last year. It will be a good, highly contested game. We just need to improve as a basketball team to put in our best effort,” Whitmore said.