PLU Tops Whitworth in Overtime Thriller

SPOKANE, Wash. – Mackenzie Bieker hit a pair of free throws with eight seconds left in overtime to secure an 87-83 win for visiting Pacific Lutheran over Whitworth in a Northwest Conference women's basketball thriller on Saturday evening at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.

Whitworth (9-12 overall, 5-7 NWC) rallied from double-digit deficits in both halves, but then could not hold onto late five-point leads at the end of regulation and in overtime.  The Lutes improved to 7-14, 4-8 with their second win in the last three games.

The Pirates missed 10 of their first 11 shots from the field, allowing PLU to jump out to a quick double digit lead.  By the time Samantha Potter scored inside just over six minutes into the game the Lutes were up 14-3.  Then Whitworth started to make baskets and Emily Guthrie's three-pointer pulled the Pirates to within 21-19.  But PLU answered with a 9-0 run, including a pair of baskets by Katelyn Smith, to open a 30-19 lead with 4:04 to go in the period.  The Bucs responded again to cut the deficit to 33-31 at halftime by hitting 7-8 from the free throw line over the final three minutes.

Lexi Belcher's three from the top of the circle to open the second half gave the hosts their first lead of the game.  But PLU scored eight straight points to retake control.  A put-back basket by Potter gave the Lutes a 57-47 advantage with just under 11 minutes to play and the lead was still 62-53 following a long two-point jumper by Bieker three minutes later. 

That is when the Pirates appeared to take over the game, outscoring PLU 14-0 over the next five minutes to open their own 67-62 lead on Guthrie's fast break layup.  But Sarah Backstrom hit a three-pointer to pull PLU within 70-69, then hit another three over tight defense to tie the game 72-72 with nine seconds left.  But a confused Backstrom fouled Whitworth's Kayla Johnson with four seconds left, thinking her team was still down by a point.  Johnson made both free throws, but the Pirates were unable to stop Shelly Kilkup, who drove for the tying layin as time expired.

Whitworth scored the first five points of overtime, including a three-point play by Johnson, and were still ahead 83-78 with 2:51 left following a jumper by Taylor Taylor.  PLU then made the final run of the game, outscoring the Pirates 9-0 down the stretch.  Whitworth missed its final three shots and also committed a pair of crucial turnovers.  Potter's basket put the Lutes ahead 84-83 with just over a minute to play.  Kilcup made one of two free throws with 18 seconds left, and after Whitworth's final turnover, Bieker tallied her clinchers from the free throw line.

Johnson scored 16 of her season-high 22 points after halftime to lead the Pirates.  She added seven rebounds and three assists.  Belcher scored 19 points and Guthrie finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Taylor totaled 12 points and seven rebounds.

Bieker's 21 points for the Lutes was also a career-high, and 19 of those came after halftime.  Potter dominated the paint to the tune of 19 points and 19 rebounds, while Kilcup added 13 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.  Backstrom scored 16 points and Smith totaled 14 or the Lutes.

Whitworth will hit the road next weekend with games at Linfield (Friday) and Pacific (Saturday).

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