SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth women's basketball team held off a late run by Linfield College to defeat the Wildcats 69-64 on Saturday afternoon in Whitworth Fieldhouse. Whitworth, which improves to 12-5 overall, 5-3 in the Northwest Conference, gave head coach Helen Higgs her 275th win as head coach of the Pirates. Linfield falls to 1-12 on the season, 0-7 in league play.
"This was a game we had to just grind out between injuries and illness," Whitworth head coach Helen Higgs said. "We had to adapt and adjust our game plan."
Linfield, looking for its first NWC win, came out firing and jumped out to an early 10-5 lead before freshman KC McConnell came off the bench to score a quick four points and pulled the Pirates within three. Senior Emily Guthrie sank a three-pointer to tie the game up at the 12:39 mark, but Linfield answered with a three-pointer of its own to go back in front. The teams traded baskets, with the Wildcats keeping a lead for the next five minutes of action. After a McConnell three-pointer tied the game at 21, sophomore Katara Belton-Sharp grabbed one of her career-high eight rebounds on the defensive end and hit a jumper on the offensive end to put the Pirates in front for the first time since the opening minute. The Bucs held onto the lead for the remaining 6:49. Whitworth led 32-25 at halftime.
Though Linfield opened the second half with the first basket, but Whitworth went on a 9-0 run to push its lead to 14 points in the first 4:34. The Pirates kept a comfortable lead over the Wildcats for most of the second half, but Linfield made a 6-0 run to get within four points with 2:45 left in the game. Junior Jamie Lyons came up with a blocked shot on the defensive end and then hit a basket on the other end to put Whitworth up by six, but Linfield's Katelyn Henson hit a jumper to pull the Wildcats back within four with 1:33 remaining. Whitworth was able to ice the game at the line over the last minute and a half.
Whitworth finished the night shooting 75 percent (9-12) from the free throw line, and two Pirates, junior Kayla Johnson (5-5) and senior Lauren Picha (2-2) were perfect from the line. Linfield shot just 38.5 percent (5-13) from the charity stripe. The Bucs held a 55-33 edge on the boards and pulled down 23 offensive rebounds, which led to 22 second chance points.
"I was really proud of our focus and work ethic tonight. It was nice to get back in the groove on the boards tonight, which we needed since Linfield took care of the ball well tonight," said Higgs.
Three Pirates scored in double figures for the Pirates, led by Kayla Johnson's season-high 19 points. Emily Guthrie added 15 points, and KC McConnell chipped in 13 points for the Bucs. In addition to Belton-Sharp's eight, Lauren Picha pulled down a career-high eight rebounds, while junior Kendra Lahue also grabbed eight boards for Whitworth. Picha also dished out five assists for the Bucs.
Linfield also had three players in double figures, led by Katelyn Henson's 19 points. Kaely Maltman scored 18 points for the Wildcats, while Taylor Solomon added 13 points. Maltman and Henson led the team with eight rebounds each, and Maltman dished out a game-high six assits.
Next up, Whitworth will travel to Tacoma to play Puget Sound at 6:00 pm on January 25th and Pacific Lutheran at 4:00 pm on January 26th.