SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University women's basketball team could not hold off fifth-ranked St. Thomas (Minn.) down the stretch as the Tommies handed the Pirates a 76-61 loss in the final game of the Whit Classic in Whitworth Fieldhouse on Saturday.
"I was proud of our effort tonight," Whitworth head coach Helen Higgs said. "I thought we competed well with one of the top teams in the country, but a four minute span was the difference in a tight game."
After trailing 4-0 in the early going, Whitworth (1-1) knotted the score 8-8 on a free throw from junior Jessica Kramer. St. Thomas (1-1) answered with a 7-0 run to reclaim the lead. The Tommies controlled the scoreboard for most of the first half until baskets from Kramer and senior Kayla Johnson pulled the Pirates within two points, 27-25, with 4:15 left in the half. Kramer gave the Pirates their first lead of the game with a three-pointer at the 3:25 mark. The teams traded leads over the next possessions before sophomore KC McConnell drained a three with 1:46 left before the break to put Whitworth in front 33-31. The Pirates kept the Tommies off the board in the waning seconds and led 33-31 at halftime.
The teams traded baskets and leads in the opening minutes of the second half until St. Thomas hit back-to-back jumpers to take a 47-43 lead. McConnell sank another three to pull the Pirates within one, 47-46 with 11:55 left in the game. Senior Kendra Lahue came up with a steal on the defensive end that led to a layup for fellow senior teammate Jamie Lyons, putting Whitworth ahead 48-47 with 10:45 remaining. After St. Thomas regained the lead, the Pirates threatened with just under six minutes left in the game when sophomore Lexie Zappone got fouled on a made layup and sank the free throw to make it a four point game. Lyons hit on three-pointer on Whitworth's next possession to make it a two point game, but the Tommies used a 12-0 run over the next four minutes to put the game out of Whitworth's reach.
KC McConnell led the Pirates with 20 points, including a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line. Jessica Kramer added 13 points while Kayla Johnson chipped in 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Jamie Lyons finished with 10 points for the Pirates. Junior Kendra Knutsen dished out four assists and had two steals for the Pirates.
Maggie Weiers scored 25 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked six to lead the Tommies. St. Thomas also got 15 points from Taylor Young, who scored her 1,000th career point on a pair of free throws in the first half. Katie Stone added 12 points and Kelly Brandenburg had 10 points for St. Thomas. Anna Smith pulled down 12 rebounds.
Overall, Whitman went 2-0 in the Whit Classic, earning victories over St. Thomas and Pomona-Pitzer. Whitworth and St. Thomas both ended the tournament with 1-1 records and Pomona-Pitzer ended the weekend with an 0-2 record.
The All-Tournament team included Pomona-Pitzer's Jenn Okonkwo, St. Thomas' Maggie Weiers, Whitworth's KC McConnell and Whitman's Sarah Anderegg and Heather Johns, who was named the tournament MVP.
Next up, Whitworth travels to UC-Santa Cruz to play in the Hampton Inn Classic. The Pirates face host school UC-Santa Cruz at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, November 23rd and Redlands at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 24th.