SPOKANE, Wash. -- Whitworth hung with 18th-ranked Lewis & Clark for 35 minutes, but the visiting Pioneers pulled away over the final five minutes for a 69-56 win in the Northwest Conference opener for both schools on Friday night.
L&C (6-0 overall, 1-0 NWC) used its inside height advantage to outrebound the Pirates 29-11 in the second half and the Pioneers finished with an 18-4 advantage in second chance points.
Whitworth (2-5, 0-1) bounced back from a quick 9-2 deficit to open a 15-11 lead just over seven minutes into the game. The run included a three by Emily Guthrie and five points off of the bench by Kendra Lahue. Kristina Williams answered with a three for L&C and the teams would trade leads the rest of the half. The Pioneers took a 29-27 lead into the locker rooms. Whitworth had a 21-18 rebounding lead at the break.
But L&C was determined to use its size advantage more effectively in the second half. Pioneer post Margaret Dowling had nine of her game-high 11 rebounds after halftime. Fellow post Neva Hauser scored all eight of her points after the break.
L&C led the entire second half and opened a 51-41 lead with 7:06 to play on a lay-up by Katie Anderson. But Whitworth closed to within 51-49 two minutes later on a pair of free throws by Lexi Belcher. The Pioneers, however, would outscore the Pirates 18-7 the rest of the way.
Guthrie led Whitworth with 15 points, but she was the only Pirate to reach double figures in scoring. She added four assists. Belcher scored nine and grabbed six rebounds.
Williams and Sara Villanueva each scored 18 points for L&C, while Megan Spence totaled 15 points. Williams added eight rebounds and Villanueva had three assists.
Notes: Whitworth defeated L&C in Portland last season in the NWC opener for both schools, but the Pioneers rebounded to share the league title. Tonight's game was the first of three that will be broadcast live on local cable station SWX this season.
Coming Up: Whitworth will host third-ranked George Fox on Saturday night in the Fieldhouse. The game will tip off at 6:00 p.m.