WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Lexi Belcher scored 16 of her team-high 18 points in the second half to help Whitworth rally for a 70-65 win over UC Santa Cruz in the opening game of the Kim Evanger Raney Classic hosted by Whitman College on Friday night.
The Pirates improved to 3-6 this season by coming back from an 11-point first half deficit. The Banana Slugs are also now 3-6.
Belcher missed all five of her shots from the floor in the first half and made two free throws for only two points. But she went 5-10 from the floor in the second half and finished the game 8-8 from the free throw line to account for her 18 points.
UCSC stormed out to an 11-0 lead in the opening five minutes of the game as Whitworth missed its four shots and committed five turnovers during that run. But Emily Guthrie got the Pirates on the board by hitting a three-pointer. Whitworth got within 27-23 at halftime when Kendra Lahue scored a lay up with seven seconds left in the half.
The Bucs took their first lead (39-38) with 14:22 left in the game when Belcher drained a mid-range jumper. The lead changed hands several times over the next ten minutes. UCSC took its final lead (57-55) on a free throw by Taylor Willis with 4:08 left. Lahue drained a three to give Whitworth a one-point lead on the Pirates' next possession and then she made two free throws the next time down the floor to extend the advantage. Kayla Johnson made a big defensive rebound with 30 seconds left and converted two free throws to give Whitworth a 68-63 lead and some breathing room. Lauren Picha calmly sank the final two free throws with 11 seconds left to secure the win.
Whitworth made 27-30 (90%) from the free throw line to offset a rough shooting night. The Pirates made only 27% (8-30) from the field in the first half, but improved to 38% (12-32) in the second half. Lahue and Johnson each scored 12 points and Jamie Lyons added 10 points. Johnson also led Whitworth with eight rebounds and five assists.
Sarah Mackey posted 27 points and 12 rebounds for UCSC.
Whitworth will take on Lancaster Bible College (Pa.) on Saturday night at 6:00 p.m.