December 6, 2011

Pirate Women Headed to Tournament in Walla Walla

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Whitworth women's basketball team will try to return to the win column this weekend when the Pirates compete in the Kim Evanger Raney Classic hosted by Whitman College in Walla Walla. Whitworth will take on UC Santa Cruz on Friday and Lancaster Bible College on Saturday. Both games will tip off at 6:00 p.m. and both fans can follow live statistics of both games (links in the column to the right).

Whitworth dropped both of its Northwest Conference contests at home last weekend.

The Pirates: Whitworth had to open its Northwest Conference schedule against two nationally-ranked teams in defending NWC co-champions Lewis & Clark (now ranked 15th) and George Fox (ranked 3rd).

The Pirates played with then 18th-ranked Lewis & Clark for 35 minutes last Friday before the Pioneers pulled away at the end to win 69-56. L&C outrebounded Whitworth 29-11 in the second half and had an 18-4 advantage in second chance points during the game. Emily Guthrie (Jr., G, Snohomish, Wash.) led Whitworth with 15 points, but she was the only Pirate to reach double figures in scoring. She added four assists. Lexi Belcher (Sr., F, Mossyrock, Wash.) scored nine and grabbed six rebounds. Whitworth went 5-15 (33.3%) from three-point range.

The Pirates had their best three-point shooting night of the season on Saturday against 3rd-ranked George Fox, but the Bruins still won 81-69. Whitworth went 10-20 (50%) from beyond the arc to prevent George Fox from running away after GFU opened a 23-point lead in the second half. Lexi Belcher scored 19 points to lead Whitworth, while Emily Guthrie finished with 10 points and a team-high six rebounds. Kayla Johnson (So., G, Colfax, Wash.) scored nine and dished six assists.

Lexi Leads 'Em: Lexi Belcher has been the Pirates' leading scorer this season. She has been the Pirates leading scorer in five of the team's eight games and is averaging 14.3 points per contest. She leads the team in field goal percentage (.513) and adds 4.6 rebounds per game.

More than Just a Shooter: Emily Guthrie earned Second Team All-NWC honors last season after ranking among the league leaders in both three-point percentage and three-pointers made per game and leading the Pirates in scoring average. But she is proving that she is more than a shooter this season. While averaging 10.8 points per game, Guthrie has also added a team-high 3.0 assists per contest and grabs 5.0 rebounds per game.

Picha Breaks Out: Lauren Picha (Jr., G, Puyallup, Wash.) is having a breakthrough season for the Pirates. She is averaging 11.3 points per game and is leading the team in three-point percentage (44.4%) this season. Her 27 points in the win at Evergreen State on November 22nd is the highest individual total for any Whitworth player in 2011-12.

Kayla Gets it Done: Kayla Johnson does much of the dirty work for the Whitworth basketball team this season. She is averaging 9.4 points per game, but is not afraid to mix up her 5'-8" frame inside with bigger players. She leads the team in both rebounding (7.6 rpg) and steals (2.0 spg).

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: The Kim Evanger Raney Classic is an annual tournament hosted by Whitman College named in honor of a former Missionary player who was tragically killed.

UC Santa Cruz is an NCAA Division III independent. The Banana Slugs come into the weekend 3-5 overall after splitting at their own tournament last weekend. UCSC defeated Whittier (69-42) and lost to Redlands (74-64). The Banana Slugs opened the season with a trip to Tacoma and lost to NWC members Pacific Lutheran (62-53) and Puget Sound (55-45). Junior forward Sarah Makey leads the team in both scoring (11.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.0 rpg). Whitworth played UCSC in its season-opener last season and fell 69-68.

The Pirates will take on a team they have never seen before when they play Lancaster Bible College (Pa.) on Saturday. The Chargers are 1-2 and are members of the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC). LBC has a nice inside-out combination with junior guard Lauren Heliger (14.7 ppg) and junior forward Emily Lloyd (9.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg). Whitman will take on the Chargers on Friday night after Whitworth plays UCSC.

Up Next: Whitworth will host Lewis-Clark State College on December 17th at 1:00 p.m.

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 254-184 during her tenure as the Pirate head coach. Her current winning percentage of .581 is also the best all-time among Pirate women's basketball coaches. She has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year three times.

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