Pirate Women Close Out Regular Season At Lewis & Clark

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Whitworth University women's basketball team closes out the regular season at Lewis & Clark on Friday.

The Pirates and the Pioneers tip at 6:00 p.m. at Pamplin Sports Center. Live video, audio and live statistics can be found on the women's basketball schedule.

The Pirates: Whitworth enters the weekend with an 18-6 record overall, and a 12-3 record in the NWC after falling to second-ranked Whitman on Tuesday.

Senior guard Kayla Johnson leads the Pirates with 18.4 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per contest. Sophomore guard KC McConnell is the second-leading scorer for the Pirates with 15.0 points per game, and the second-leading rebounder with 6.3 boards per game.

Sophomore guard Lexie Zappone leads the team with an average of 3.5 assists per game after dishing out a career-high nine assists in Whitworth's season opener. Zappone also leads the team with 1.7 steals per contest.

Senior forward Kendra Lahue averages 9.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the Pirates. Junior forward Jessica Kramer averages 5.9 points per game for the Pirates, with a team-high 54.4 field goal percentage.

The Pioneers: Whitworth closes out the regular season at Lewis & Clark on Friday. The Pioneers are 12-11 overall, with a 7-7 Northwest Conference record. Lewis & Clark lost at George Fox, 66-48, on Tuesday.

Lewis & Clark is led by Tayler Wang, who averages 16.6 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game and 3.3 assists per game. Katie Anderson averages 14.8 points per game for the Pioneers. Ayisat Afolabi averages 1.4 steals per game and Reese DeHart averages 0.5 blocks per contest.

Lewis & Clark's Tayler Wang ranks fourth in the league in both points per game (16.6) and assists per game (3.3). Her 7.8 rebounds per game rank fifth in the conference. Sarah Anderson ranks third with a .411 three-point field goal percentage.

Lewis & Clark averages 71.2 points per game and has a rebounding margin of 3.7 this season. The Pioneers lead the league with a .346 three-point field goal percentage. Lewis & Clark sits just behing Puget Sound in the NWC standings and will be battling for the fourth playoff spot.

Friday's meeting will be the 58th meeting between the two programs. Whitworth leads the series 39-18, including a 90-62 win in Spokane on January 25th.

Rejoining the Rankings: After spending five weeks as an "other receiving votes," the Whitworth women's basketball team cracked into the poll this week with the 25th spot. Whitworth makes its first appearance in the poll since the conclusion of the 2004-2005 season, when the Pirates ended the campaign with the 24th ranking.

Last Time Out: Facing their second top-ten opponent in four days, the Pirates started out strong against second-ranked Whitman. Despite four players scoring in double figures and shooting 52.4 percent

(11-21) on three-pointers, the Pirates could not overcome a second half double digit Whitman lead. Whitworth struggled from the free throw line, making half of the 12 attempts, while Whitman shot 94.7 percent from the charity stripe, missing just one of the 19 attempts.

Ball Control: In 21 of their 24 games this season, the Pirates have had fewer turnovers than their opponents. Whitworth has forced double-digit turnovers in all but one of the games, while keeping their own turnovers under 10 in six games this season, including back-to-back games with just six team turnovers. The Pirates average 19.2 points per game off of turnovers this season. Whitworth ranks fourth among Division III teams in fewest turnovers per game (12.3) and is 18th with a 1.07 assist turnover ratio.

NWC Leaders: Whitworth has four players that rank in the top ten in NWC statistical categories.

Kayla Johnson ranks second in the conference with 18.4 points per game. Johnson also ranks ninth in rebounds per game (7.1) and third in defensive rebounds per game (5.1). Her .395 three-point field goal percentage is sixth in the conference, while her .475 field goal percentage is ninth in the league.

KC McConnell's .820 free throw percentage ranks third in the conference. Her .398 three-point field goal percentage ranks fifth in the conference. She is tied for fifth with 2.6 offensive rebounds per game and is seventh with 15.0 points per game.

Lexie Zappone ranks third in both assists per game (3.5) and steals per game (1.7) and is seventh in the conference with a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Kendra Knutsen's 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks third in the league.

Zesty Zappone: Sophomore guard Lexie Zappone has stepped into the role of starting point guard this season and added another dimension to the Pirate lineup. The Spokane, Wash. native dished out a career-high nine assists in the season opener. Zappone averages 8.3 points per game and has had two 10-rebound games, leading to a 3.8 rebounds per game average. She's had the team-high in assists in 14

games and in steals in 11 games. She leads the team and is third in the conference with 3.5 assists per game and her 1.7 steals per game lead the team and are third among NWC players. She ranks 81st in Division III for a 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Senior Leadership: After missing the season opener with an injury, senior guard Kayla Johnson bounced back to post a team-high in at least one category in all but two games this season. In the win against

Lewis & Clark, she led the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. The Colfax, Wash. native scored a career-high 31 points at Puget Sound and reached the 1,000-point mark of her Whitworth career with a basket in the opening minute at George Fox. She currently has 1,203 career points - seventh on the all-time scoring list. Johnson's 18.4 points per game rank 44th among Division III players.

Sophomore Surge: After having a great debut season last year, sophomore guard KC McConnell continues to improve during her sophomore campaign. The Clarkston, Wash. native is the second-leading scorer for the Pirates this season, with 15.0 points per game, and is the second-leading rebounder with 6.3 boards per game. She leads the team with an 82.0 free throw percentage.

She has set new career-highs in almost every category this season and has had five double-doubles this season.

Putting It Back: Rebounding has been key for Whitworth this season. The Pirates have 350 offensive rebounds this season, leading to 342 second chance points. Whitworth averages 14.2 points per game on offensive putbacks, while their opponents average 9.7 points per game in second chance points.

Pine Production: Whitworth has gotten prime production from its bench this season. Five different players have come off the bench to score in double figures in 12 games for Whitworth this season. The Pirates average 20.6 points per game from the reserves and have outscored their opponents' bench 495-405 this season.

Preseason Poll: The 2013-14 Northwest Conference women's basketball coaches' preseason poll was released by the league office last week.

Whitman was selected by the NWC coaches to claim the 2013-14 title after making a run in the NCAA tournament last season. The Missionaries are the 11th-ranked team in the D3hoops.com preseason poll. Lewis & Clark, the regular season champion in 2012-13, was voted to finish second in the NWC. One point separated Lewis & Clark from the Bruins of George Fox, who were voted to finish third.

Whitworth was voted to finish fourth in the NWC. The Pirates were the third seed in the 2012-13 tournament. Puget Sound was voted to repeat its fifth place finish in the conference in 2013-14. Pacific (Ore.) finished 10 points back for sixth place in the preseason vote.

Seven points separated the seventh through ninth place teams. Linfield was selected to finish seventh after a 3-19 finish put them eighth in the conference last season. Pacific Lutheran finished two points behind Linfield in the preseason voting for eighth place, one spot lower than the Lutes finished the 2012-13 season. After finishing last season in ninth place, Willamette was voted to conclude the 2013-14 season in the same spot.

Coaching Milestone: Coach Helen Higgs earned her 300th win at the helm of the Pirates. She is already the all-time winningest women's basketball coach at Whitworth, but became the first Northwest Conference women's basketball coach to reach 300 wins with an 89-56 victory at Pacific Lutheran on Saturday, February 8th. Coach Higgs currently has 302 wins.

The Coach: Now in her 20th season at Whitworth University, Helen Higgs is the winningest and longest serving women's basketball coach in school history. Not only does she have a record of 284-199 heading into the 2013-14 season, the most wins in school history, her winning percentage of .588 is also the best all-time among Pirate women's basketball coaches. Since becoming members of the NCAA in 1999, Higgs put together the best stretch of records in school history. Whitworth went 124-53 (.700) in the seven seasons from 1999-2005.

Next Up: Whitworth will play in the Northwest Conference tournament on Thursday, February 27th. Location and times to be announced.