Women’s basketball wins in final game

Pirate offense explodes for 90 points on Senior Night at the Fieldhouse After losing to Whitman College earlier in the week, Whitworth won against the Willamette University Bearcats on Senior Night, putting up 58 points in the second half alone.

On Tuesday night, Whitman beat the Pirates 71- 52, dashing their hopes of making the Northwest Conference Tournament. Sophomore guard Kayla Johnson started the Pirates off with a basket, giving them the lead. That would be the only lead of the game for the Pirates.

Junior guard Lauren Picha ended the first half with a three-pointer, sending the Pirates into halftime down by 16. Early in the second half, senior forward Lexi Belcher sunk two free throws and pulled the Pi- rates to 40-29, but then Whitman went on a scoring streak and the Pirates could not catch up.

The Pirates then played their final game of the sea- son against Willamette, who was last in the conference standings.

“We didn’t play to our best in the first half,” head coach Helen Higgs said after the game. “[We] played really, really well in the second. By the second min- ute of the second half, I knew we had it.”

Before the game, the team honored its two seniors, Taylor Taylor and Lexi Belcher.

“Senior nights are hard,” Higgs said. “You’re close to the team, [and] the emotions of Senior Night are hard. I’m glad we finished with a win.”

The first half of the game was close, with many lead changes between the two teams. The Bearcats shot 59 percent from the field and looked like they might get their first conference win this season, while the Pirates only made 30 percent of their shots. Just 10 minutes into the game, Willamette was leading.

However, both teams found themselves at the free throw line early and often in the close first half. Af- ter sophomore guard Jenna Cacchillo sunk back-to- back free throws, the teams were tied 21-21.

Although Whitworth gained the lead for a while, Willamette caught up once more and took a 33-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Taylor had seven rebounds and scored six points to help the team in the first half, and Picha had sev- en points, as well as two steals, in her 15 minutes of playing time during the first half.

“In the first half, we were not as focused as we needed to be,” Belcher said. “[We were] more intense in the second half.”

Whitworth came out in the second half deter- mined to win. After trailing for a few minutes, the Pirates started a scoring streak, eventually building a 53-40 lead. Junior guard Emily Guthrie began the comeback with back-to-back three pointers, and Whitworth continued to extend its lead as the game went on.

With just six minutes left in the game, Johnson sunk a three-pointer, extending the lead 79-52.

The Pirates held on to the lead the rest of the game, finishing 90-67.

The second half saw different results for the Bearcats, who made 37 percent of their shots. Whit- worth increased its shooting percentage in the sec- ond half to 60 percent, a big improvement from the first.

Picha led the team in scoring, with 16 points as well as two rebounds and two assists. Johnson added 15 points, two assists and six rebounds, and Guthrie had 14 points, two assists and two rebounds. Taylor had the most rebounds (eight), assists (four) and steals (four).

“We came and did our job,” freshman forward Katara Belton-Sharp said. “[We] made the seniors proud.”

She said the number of fouls called on both sides was what stuck out to her about the game. However, she said, “[The calls] weren’t a factor. We played to the refs.”

“I think [the team] was very effective offensively [this year],” Higgs said. “If we can up our defense we will be tough to beat.”

Belcher said although she wishes the team could have made the playoffs, the team overall had a good year.

“The fact that we had such balanced scoring, it just showed that we’re a [team unit where] everyone can score and do awesome,” Belcher said.

The women’s team finished the season 11-14 overall and 7-9 in the NWC, putting the team in fifth place in the NWC standings.

Story by Meghan Dellinger Staff Writer

Contact Meghan Dellinger at mdellinger15@my.whitworth.edu.

Photographer: Chrissy Roach Photo caption: Senior forward Taylor Taylor searches for a teammate in her last game as a Pirate on Saturday.

 

Spotted from the crow's nest: Lexi Belcher, women’s basketball

Whitworth senior Lexi Belcher is one of the top scorers on the women’s basketball team this season.

She grew up playing basketball, starting when she was in first grade playing off to the side while her dad coached her older sister’s team. Belcher said it was a family activity at first, and later turned it into a life-long passion.

Head coach Helen Higgs said Belcher has improved all around this year.

“She’s really teachable, [with] a really strong work ethic,” Higgs said. “She had a knee injury, [and] we never had her at 100 percent last year. So my hope was for her to have a year like this one.”

Belcher scored a career-high 33 points Feb. 10 against Linfield College, making 55 percent of her shots from the floor and 67 percent of her three-point attempts. She was also named Northwest Conference women’s bas- ketball Student-Athlete of the Week on Feb. 14.

Junior point guard Lauren Picha said Belcher is a good leader on the team.

“She leads by example,” Picha said. “[She] works hard in practice, and does what she can do.”

“The team calls her ‘Mema’; she’s kind of like a grand- ma figure,” Higgs said. “She goes hard, and [her team- mates] respect her work ethic.”

Belcher said her parents inspire her the most.

“They work hard at everything, which makes me want to work hard,” Belcher said.

Belcher went to Central Washington University, Yakima Valley Community College and Centrailia Community College before coming to Whitworth. She said both of her sisters lived in Spokane, and she heard Whitworth was a good school with a good basketball program.

“I love my professors and the fact that they all know my first name, and when I skip class,” Belcher said. “I love the city, [and] the climate with all of its different seasons.”

Belcher is graduating with a degree in business management, and she said she hopes to stay in Spokane, perhaps getting a job in human resources.

Belcher suffered from knee injuries off and on last year, which did not allow her much playing time.

“[Dealing with the injury] taught me to be mentally tough,” Belcher said. “To go out there and put it in the back of my head and know that it is only temporary.”

Belcher is one of two seniors on the team, and her hard work in practices and games inspires her teammates.

“She’s made me want to play my best each game,” Picha said.

Belcher said college basketball is more of a full-time commitment compared to playing in high school.

“High school is a lot less intense,” Belcher said. “[College basketball] is a job, but it is a fun job.”

Asked what she will miss most about playing basketball, Belcher said, “Definitely my teammates. They’re like my family, and it’s going to be hard not being around them every day.”

Her advice for her teammates: “Work hard every day. Don’t take it for granted, it goes by so fast. Enjoy every good and bad moment.”

Story by Meghan Dellinger Staff Writer

Contact Meghan Dellinger at mdellinger15@my.whitworth.edu.

Photographer: Tanner Scholten

Women’s basketball continues to fight for playoff spot

After working hard during the month of January, the women’s basketball team carries on in their quest to earn a spot in the Northwest Conference tournament. Freshman Allena Sommer said the team worked hard during the month of January, practicing two times a day at first. She said the team focused on their positions individually, which was a good change for her.

“I like the emphasis, just getting together as a team,” Sommer said about the practices that month. “[It’s] a unity type of thing. When we communicate our energy goes up a lot more.”

The team played eight games during January, winning four. That put them in fifth place for the Northwest Conference, just behind Puget Sound in the standings.

This past weekend, the women hoped to move up in the NWC standings, traveling to Oregon to play Linfield College and Pacific University in back-to-back games.

At Linfield, the Pirates won 93-73. Head coach Helen Higgs said the team won because of offensive efficiency.

“[The team] shot the ball well. They dictated what went on,” she said.

However, the team’s ambitions were set back at Pacific, where the women rallied late in the game but lost 78-70.

“We didn’t have the focus and determination,” Higgs said. “We still fought hard. But we were trying to react, not dictate what went on.”

She said she believes the team just needs to learn to start with more intensity and fire, and to keep it up throughout the game.

When asked if the team had a chance to make the NWC tournament after their most recent loss, Higgs said, “Now we need to have somebody upset, and still win all of our games. But we can make it.”

The team next plays at Whitman College on Tuesday night, Feb. 14th, at 8 p.m.

Story by Meghan Dellinger Staff Writer

Contact Meghan Dellinger at mdellinger15@my.whitworth.edu