Whitworth Set to Host NWC Women's Powerhouses

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Whitworth will open Northwest Conference play this week by hosting Lewis & Clark College and George Fox University on Friday and Saturday night. The Pirates have their work cut out for them as they will take on the defending conference co-champions who are currently both unbeaten and nationally-ranked. The games will both tip off at 6:00 p.m. as part of the women's-men's NWC doubleheaders.

After opening the season with an 0-3 record the first week, Whitworth responded by winning two of three games last week, all away from home. The Bucs are now 2-4 this season.

Links to live coverage for both games this week can be found in the column to the right. Friday's game will also be the first of three live broadcasts on local cable TV station SWX and Whitworth will stream that broadcast. See below for more information.

The Pirates: Whitworth earned its first win of the season with a 72-67 victory at Evergreen State last Tuesday night. Lauren Picha (Jr., G, Puyallup, Wash.) scored a career-high 27 points while making 10-14 shots from the floor (3-5 from three-point range) and 4-6 from the free throw line. She also added five rebounds and a pair of assists. Kayla Johnson (So., G, Colfax, Wash.) added 11 points and four steals for the Pirates, who improved to 3-0 all-time against the Geoducks.

The Pirates then traveled to Thousand Oaks, California for the Posada Royale Classic hosted by Cal Lutheran University.

Whitworth fell 77-64 to the host Regals in Saturday's game. The Pirates held a 37-30 halftime lead, but could not sustain the momentum in the second half. CLU outscored the Pirates 37-27 after halftime. Jamie Lyons (So., F, Kennewick, Wash.) led the Pirates with a career high of 16 points, while Emily Guthrie drained five three-pointers for her total of 15 points. Picha added 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Whitworth bounced back to beat Chapman 81-62 on Sunday. This time after opening a 44-30 lead at the break, the Pirates extended the advantage to as many as 23 points midway through the second half and never let the Panthers have a chance at coming back. Lexi Belcher (Sr., F, Mossyrock, Wash.) scored 17 points to lead the Pirates. Kayla Johnson added 12 points, 15 rebounds, five steals and three assists. Her rebound and steal totals were career highs. Guthrie finished with 16 points, while Kendra Lahue (So., F, Nine Mile Falls, Wash.) came off of the bench for 10 points and seven rebounds.

All-Tournament Honorees: Both Johnson and Guthrie were named to the Posada Royale All-Tournament team. Johnson posted 20 points and 24 rebounds in the two games, while Guthrie scored 31 points to lead the Pirates in that category.

Finding Balance: Four different Whitworth players are averaging double figures in scoring through the first four games. Lexi Belcher leads the team in scoring average (14.3 ppg), but Lauren Picha is close behind at 12.8 points per game. Both Kayla Johnson and Emily Guthrie are averaging 10.2 points per contest. Johnson is the team's leader in rebounding by a wide margin at 9.3 boards per game. Guthrie leads the Pirates with 16 total assists.

Three SWX Broadcasts: Local cable station SWX will carry three Whitworth women's games live this season: Dec. 2 vs. Lewis & Clark; Jan. 17 vs. Whitman and Feb.3 vs. Puget Sound. John Fritz will provide play by play, while former Whitworth star and men's all-time leading scorer Bryan Depew gives color commentary. SWX stands for Sports & Weather Right Now and is owned by local NBC affiliate KHQ channel 6. SWX can be seen both over-the-air and through some cable services in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene, Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, and Yakima viewership areas. In the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area, SWX is found on digital channel 6.2, on Comcast channel 115 in Spokane and Time Warner channel 306 in North Idaho. Click here for a complete list of station numbers throughout the Eastern Washington/North Idaho region.

The Opponents: Lewis & Clark is 4-0 heading into a game tonight (Monday) against Corban. The Pioneers were ranked 25th in the preseason D3hoops.com poll and they have done nothing so far to indicate that they should not be nationally-ranked all season long. Two weekends ago they went across the country to win a tournament hosted by #24 Kean (N.J.), defeating the hosts 81-71 in the championship game. Last week L&C defeated Concordia 66-50 in its only game. Defending NWC Player of the Year Kristina Williams is averaging 15.0 ppg and 5.0 rpg. Fellow guard Sara Villanueva adds 12.5 points per game. Last season the Pirates and Pioneers played a pair of close games with Whitworth winning 79-76 on the road in Portland and L&C returning the favor 74-70 in Spokane.

George Fox is ranked third in the preseason D3hoops.com poll and the Bruins have lived up to that high billing by opening the season 4-0. Last weekend George Fox went to the same Posada Royale Classic that Whitworth participated in. The Bruins defeated Chapman 74-57 in the first game, then defeated Cal Lutheran 63-51 on Sunday. Senior wing Keisha Gordon was named MVP of that tournament and junior post Hannah Munger was also on the All-Tournament team. Gordon is averaging 14.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, while Munger (at 6'-4") is averaging 14.8 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Last season George Fox defeated Whitworth 64-44 in Newberg, but the Pirates forced the Bruins to overtime in the game in Spokane before GFU escaped with a 78-71 victory.

Up Next: Whitworth will head to Walla Walla to compete in the Kim Evanger Classic on Friday and Saturday next week. The Pirates will take on UC Santa Cruz and Lancaster Bible.

The Coach: Helen Higgs is in her 18th season at Whitworth and is the winningest women's basketball coach in school history. She has a record of 254-182 during her tenure as the Pirate head coach. Her current winning percentage of .583 is also the best all-time among Pirate women's basketball coaches. She has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year three times.