SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Whitworth women's basketball team is competing in the classroom this week by taking final exams for the fall semester. The Pirates' reward for their hard work? They will get a match-up with Lewis-Clark State College, currently ranked 4th in the NAIA Division I poll, at home on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.
Whitworth won two games last week at the Kim Evanger Raney Classic, hosted by Whitman College.
The Pirates: Whitworth earned a hard-fought come-from-behind victory, then cruised to an easy win while claiming both contests in Walla Walla. The Pirates improved to 4-6 overall.
UC Santa Cruz stormed out to an 11-0 lead in the opening five minutes of Friday night's game, but the Pirates weathered the storm and came from behind to win 70-65. Whitworth outscored UCSC 47-38 in the second half. Lexi Belcher (Sr., F, Mossyrock, Wash.) scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Pirates. Kendra Lahue (So., F, Nine Mile Falls, Wash.) and Kayla Johnson (So., G, Colfax, Wash.) each contributed 12 points with Johnson grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. While the Pirates did not shoot particularly well (32.3%), they forced 24 turnovers by the Banana Slugs and got to the free throw line 30 times, where they made 27 (90%).
It was all Emily Guthrie (Jr., G, Snohomish, Wash.) in Saturday's easy 95-49 win over Lancaster Bible College (Pa.). She scored a career-high 29 points, including ten quick points as Whitworth jumped to a 14-0 lead, and tied the Pirate school record for three-pointers made in a game, making 8-14 from beyond the arc. Jamie Lyons (So., F, Kennewick, Wash.), Johnson and Belcher all scored 13 points. Johnson led the team with eight rebounds and six assists. The 95 total points for the Pirates is the most Whitworth has scored in a game since setting a school record with 101 in a win over Caltech in 2003-04.
Lexi Leads 'Em: Lexi Belcher has been the Pirates' leading scorer this season, leading the team in in points in six of the team's ten games and is averaging 14.5 points per contest. She leads the team in field goal percentage (.495) and adds 4.9 rebounds per game. Belcher tied her career-high point total (20) in this season's opener against Eastern Oregon.
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 12.3 points per game, Guthrie has also added 2.6 assists per contest and grabs 4.9 rebounds per game. But Guthrie also reminded everyone how well she can shoot with her performance against LBC, making 8-14 from beyond the arc to tie Annette Sweeney (1995) for the most three-pointers made in a game. Her 29 points in that game surpassed her previous career-high of 21 points set in last season's win over Westminster. And once again she leads the NWC in three-pointers made per game this season (2.6).
Picha Breaks Out: Lauren Picha (Jr., G, Puyallup, Wash.) is having a breakthrough season for the Pirates. She is averaging 9.4 points per game this season. Her 27 points in the win at Evergreen State on November 22nd is the second-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 10.0 points per game, but is not afraid to mix up her 5'-8" frame inside with bigger players. She leads the team in rebounding (7.7 rpg), assists (2.8 apg) 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: Lewis-Clark State rolls into Saturday's game ranked #4 in this week's NAIA Division I poll. The Warriors improved to 9-1 on December 10th with a 68-59 win over Eastern Oregon. LCSC is tall and talented. Senior forward (6'-0") averages 21.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Fellow senior Kirsi Voshell (a 6'-3" post) adds 12.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Whitworth last played LCSC on November 20, 2009 in a contest played at Whitman College. The Warriors defeated the Pirates 67-55.
Up Next: Whitworth will be off for the holiday break, returning with its first official game on January 6th at Pacific Lutheran. But the Pirates will get a chance to run when they take on their Alumni on Friday, December 30th at 6:00 p.m. in the Fieldhouse in an exhibition contest.
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 256-184 during her tenure as the Pirate head coach. Her current winning percentage of .582 is also the best all-time among Pirate women's basketball coaches. She has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year three times.