WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Whitworth University women's basketball team repeated as the Northwest Conference tournament champions with a 68-65 win over Whitman College on Saturday evening in the Sherwood Center.
Whitworth improves to 20-7 on the season and earned the Northwest Conference automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament. Whitman picked up its first loss of the season, falling to 26-1 overall.
"We did what we need to do to win," Whitworth head coach Helen Higgs said. "We took care of the ball and rebounded in the second half. We came out and we showed we weren't afraid to play the number one team in the country. We believed that we could win and went out there and proved it."
Whitman took a 4-0 lead early but senior Kendra Lahue made it a one-point game with a three-pointer at the 18:00 mark. The Missionaries pushed out to a 12-5 lead, but sophomore KC McConnell's two free throws and senior Kayla Johnson and junior Katara Belton-Sharp's baskets pulled the Pirates back within a point, 12-11. Sophomore Lexie Zappone hit a three-pointer to knot the game 18-18 with 6:19 remaining in the half. Kayla Johnson pulled the Pirates even with a three-pointer with just under a minute left in the half, but the Missionaries hit a three of their own to take a 26-23 lead into halftime.
Whitman pushed out to a 31-25 lead after Sarah Anderegg was fouled on a made layup. The Pirates came back and tied the game three times before junior Kendra Knutsen banked in a three-pointer to give Whitworth its first lead of the game, 42-40. Whitworth extended its lead to six, 46-40, after free throws from Lahue and a turnaround jumper by junior Jessica Kramer. The Pirates held off several Whitman runs, including a late free throw battle between the teams to claim the NWC tournament title.
KC McConnell led the Pirates with 18 points, and was 10-10 from the free throw line. Kayla Johnson had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Katara Belton-Sharp added 10 points for the Pirates. Senior Jamie Lyons dished out a game-high three assists and had a team-high two steals.
Sarah Anderegg led the Missionaries with 23 points. Heather Johns and Tiffani Traver each added 15 poitns each. Johns had a double-double for Whitman with 10 rebounds and she led the Missionaries with two steals.
The teams will learn their NCAA postseason seeding, times and locations on Monday, March 3.