PORTLAND, Ore. – Visiting Whitworth hung right with 8th-ranked Lewis & Clark for much of the game before the Pioneers pulled away late for an 82-70 Northwest Conference women's basketball victory on Saturday evening at the Pamplin Sports Center.
Lexi Belcher tied her career high with 26 points for the Pirates, who fell to 8-11 overall and 4-6 in the NWC. Lewis & Clark improved to 18-1 overall and 9-1 in the NWC to remain within one game of 3rd-ranked George Fox in the league standings.
Belcher hit a three-pointer to give Whitworth its first lead (11-8) four minutes into the game. Kayla Johnson's two free throws two minutes later extended the Pirate lead to 14-8, the largest of the game for Whitworth. L&C didn't retake the lead until Daron Dean scored to put the Pioneers ahead 19-18, but the Pirates responded to retake a 26-21 lead after consecutive baskets by Bethany Fleming and Lauren Picha. L&C closed the half on a 14-5 run and took a 35-31 lead into the locker rooms.
The Pioneers seemed to take control early in the second half after opening a 43-33 lead on Neva Hauser's layup. But the Pirates came back behind Belcher to tie the game 50-50. Belcher scored 10 points during that Whitworth run.
Belcher's final three-pointer of the game, she had four, kept Whitworth within 60-58 with 8:31 to play. But that was when L&C took control for the final time, scoring 11 straight points to open up a 71-58 lead with 4:33 to play. Dean's two free throws with 2:45 left gave the Pioneers their largest lead (75-61) of the game.
Belcher hit 9-13 from the field, 4-5 from three-point range, to account for 22 of her 26 points. She also led the Bucs with five rebounds. Emily Guthrie added 12 points, including three three-pointers, and four assists. Johnson also finished with 12 points. Whitworth made 47% (27-57) from the field, 45% (9-20) from three-point range.
But L&C outrebounded Whitworth 48-28, including a 25-10 edge in offensive boards. That allowed the Pioneers to take 11 more shots in the game and 17 more free throws.
Kristina Williams led the Pioneers with 20 points, while Hauser posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Megan Spence scored 16 and Katie Anderson had 12 for L&C.
Whitworth returns home to host Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran next Friday and Saturday. The Pirates are still in the hunt for the fourth spot in the NWC post-season tournament.