WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Whitworth women's basketball team overcame two second half deficits to defeat No. 25 Whitman College in the Northwest Conference Tournament semifinal game in the Sherwood Center on Thursday evening. Earning its first Northwest Conference Tournament win since the 2001-02 season, Whitworth improves to 20-6, 12-4 in Northwest Conference play, while Whitman falls to 20-5, 13-4 in the NWC.
"I thought it was a complete team effort," Whitworth head coach Helen Higgs said. "I thought our defensive effort was consistently strong. Our three-point shooting was vital to our win as we had eight different players hit a three."
Senior Lauren Picha got Whitworth on the board first by sinking a three-pointer in the opening minute of play. Whitworth took a four point lead on a three-point basket from junior Kayla Johnson at the 16:46 mark in the first half. The teams traded leads, but neither was able to put more than a four point difference between the two. The teams headed into the locker room tied up at 24 points apiece.
Junior Kendra Lahue opened the second half with a three-pointer seven seconds into action to put the Pirates up by three, but the Missionaries answered with back-to-back layups to regain the lead. After going down by five points with 12:40 left in the game, Whitworth went on a 5-0 run that was capped off by a three-pointer from senior Emily Travis that tied the game at 36. Sophomore Katara Belton-Sharp sank a jumper on the Bucs' next possession to give Whitworth its first lead since the 16:45 mark.
Whitman was not finished just yet, as the Missionaries put together a 6-0 run to go up by six points with 6:33 left in the game. The Pirates hit back-to-back threes to tie the game up for the ninth time on the night. Travis hit her third three-point basket of the night to give Whitworth a two point lead with 2:54 remaining. Freshman KC McConnell gave Whitworth a four point lead with just over two minutes left. Heather Johns hit one of two free throws with seven seconds left on the game clock, but Whitworth was able to get a defensive stop and hold on for the win.
The Pirates finished the night shooting 42.3 percent (11-26) from beyond the arc. The Bucs had 10 assists on 20 field goals. Whitworth scored 16 points off of 20 Whitman turnovers and got 12 points on eight offensive rebounds.
Emily Travis led the Pirates with 13 points. Junior Jamie Lyons and Katara Belton-Sharp each added nine points for the Bucs, while Lauren Picha finished the game with eight points. Kayla Johnson and Lauren Picha led the rebounding effort with five boards apiece. Travis and KC McConnell each had three assists, while Johnson had a team-high three steals.
Heather Johns scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Missionaries, while Sarah Anderegg chipped in 11 points. Meghan White had a game-high 16 rebounds, while Tiffani Traver grabbed seven boards for Whitman. Traver also had three assists, while Johns had a game-high four steals.
Whitworth will face Lewis & Clark in the Northwest Conference Tournament Championship game on Saturday, February 23rd at 7:00 pm in Portland.