WALLA WALLA, Wash. – The Whitworth University women’s basketball team battled back from a 17 point deficit, but came up just short as Whitman won 73-67 in the second round of the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament in the Sherwood Center on Saturday evening.
Whitworth ends the season with a 21-8 record. Whitman improves to 28-1 and advances to the Sweet 16 next weekend.
“I think, especially in the second half, we really battled back,” Whitworth head coach Helen Higgs said. “We got down by (18) and were able to cut it to two. We just never thought we were out of it.”
Sophomore KC McConnell opened the night with a basket to give Whitworth a 2-0 lead in the first minute. Whitman responded with 10 straight points before junior Katara Belton-Sharp sank a pair of free throws to end the Pirates’ scoring drought. Whitman led by as many as 13 points with 4:17 left in the half before McConnell, senior Kayla Johnson and junior Jessica Kramer put together a 9-2 to cut the lead to six, 29-23, at the 2:11 mark. Whitman heated up in the final two minutes and hit a three-pointer just before the buzzer to take a 38-25 lead into halftime.
The Missionaries extended the lead to 18 after the break. Whitworth went on a 12-2 run on baskets from sophomore Lexie Zappone, Johnson and sophomore Alexis McLeod and free throws from Belton-Sharp and Kramer to cut the lead to four, 50-46, with 10:00 left to play. Each time Whitman attempted to break away, the Pirates held them in check. Johnson made one of two three throws with 33 seconds left to play to make it a 69-67 game, but the Missionaries made two key free throws to seal the victory.
Whitworth shot 80 (20-25) percent from the free throw line. The Pirates scored 11 points off of 16 Whitman turnovers. Whitman shot 45.6 percent (26-57) from the field.
Kayla Johnson’s 21 points gave her 1297 for her career, moving her into fifth on the all-time scoring list. Her eight rebounds led the Pirates. Jessica Kramer added 11 points. KC McConnell had a game-high four steals.
Tiffani Traver led Whitman with 17 points. Heather Johns and Sarah Anderegg each added 15 points. Hailey Ann Maeda pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. Hayley McDonald had three steals for the Missionaries.