The Pirates powered to a 72-68 victory over George Fox, the seventh-ranked team in the country, last Saturday on senior night in the Fieldhouse.
“It’s always great to be playing well at the end of the season like that,” senior forward Kayla Johnson said. “And senior night is always special.”
Senior forward Kendra Lahue hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the opening minutes as the Pirates took an early 14-4 lead. Whitworth remained in control until a 17-6 run from the Bruins to end the first half made it a one-point game, 35-34.
The Bruins took their first lead of the game on the opening possession of the second half, but Lahue responded for Whitworth, as another 3-pointer gave the lead back to the Pirates 38-36.
Later in the half, a 3-pointer from the Bruins gave them their biggest lead of the game at 51-47. The momentum was beginning to turn toward the Bruins until Johnson stepped up.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and take the opportunities that were there,” Johnson said.
Johnson scored seven of Whitworth’s next nine points as the Pirates regained the lead, 58-53.
The Pirates stayed in control, and a layup from sophomore point guard Lexie Zappone with 5:52 remaining gave the Pirates their largest lead of the second half at 64-57.
However, the Bruins scored the next six points to pull within one at 64-63.
A Johnson jumper gave Whitworth some breathing room at 66-63. However, George Fox again had an answer, taking a 68-67 lead with 1:26 to play.
Junior point guard Kendra Knutsen hit a jumper from the right baseline to take back the lead, this time for good.
Whitworth forced a turnover on the next George Fox possession, and with time expiring, the Bruins were forced to foul.
Sophomore guard KC McConnell split a pair of free throws to put the Pirates up 70-68. Lauren Codling of George Fox tried inbounding the ball, but Johnson stole the pass, putting the game away.
“I knew she didn’t think I would be up there pressuring her so I just went for it,” Johnson said. “It was probably pretty stupid but it worked.”
Johnson hit the free throws to complete the victory over the Bruins.
“We had to find ways to create opportunities,” head coach Helen Higgs said. “That was really fun having Kayla make that big play at the end and Kendra Lahue hitting some big shots. It was really exciting to make those plays down the stretch.”
Johnson had team highs with 19 points and had six rebounds. McConnell scored 13 points and five rebounds, while Lahue added 11 points and five rebounds.
Whitworth also defeated Linfield on Friday night, 82-60. The Pirates won the game on the defensive end, forcing 20 Wildcat turnovers due in part to Zappone’s defense on the Linfield point guards.
McConnell scored a team-high 16 while Johnson added 15 points and eight rebounds. Zappone also scored 13 points and dished out three assists.
The Pirates took on first-place Whitman last night. Check thewhitworthian.com for updates.
Contact James Silberman at email@example.com