by Andrew Goodwin, Sports Information Assistant
SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth Pirates led for all but one minute of Friday evening's Northwest Conference opener against Willamette, defeating the Bearcats 74-69.
Whitworth (4-1, 1-0 NWC) trailed Willamette (3-4, 0-1 NWC) for just 15 seconds after Elizabeth Logsdon's layup put the Bearcats up 2-1 just 1:03 into the game. The Pirates didn't allow another basket for four minutes and led the rest of the game after Jordan Smith's three put Whitworth up 4-2.
"We have been saying all week that our defense has to fuel our offense, so it was good to see our team take more pride in their defense today," said Whitworth head coach Joial Griffith.
Whitworth opened the game on a 14-2 run. Smith scored ten of the Pirates' early points on a pair of threes followed by two layups. Camy Aguinaldo contributed the run's other four points in addition to two assists.
"We tell our team to do what they do well. Jordan is a great three-point shooter and we saw it today," Griffith said.
After finishing the first quarter down eight, the Bearcats battled back in the second quarter. Down 28-18 midway through the period, Willamette went on a 7-2 run to cut the Whitworth lead in half. Drew Farmer opened the run with a layup before Kali Vickery hit a three and Brittany Kochenderfer contributed a jumper.
The Bearcats started to cut into Whitworth's lead again early in the third quarter with Vickery draining a three that left the Pirates up just 36-33. Whitworth responded with a three from Alli Kieckbusch and a layup from Smith to go up eight.
Willamette battled once again at the end of the period, cutting the Whitworth lead to 45-44 on a free throw from Drew Farmer. Whitworth bounced back again with two excellent plays from Talia Brandner. The freshman drained a three on one possession and pulled down an offensive rebound before assisting on Kieckbusch's three the next possession.
As was a theme for the game, the Bearcats cut into Whitworth's lead late in the game, but the Pirates slowly pulled back away to earn the win. Aguinaldo and Madison Moffat each hit two free throws to clinch the victory.
Three Pirates scored in double figures against the Bearcats, with Aguinaldo (13 pts) and Moffat (10 pts) complimenting Smith's game-high 24 points. Aguinaldo was the Bucs primary facilitator on the day with seven assists, and Moffat and Aimee Smith each pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
Kochenderfer led all rebounders on the day with 16 boards and scored 11 points to earn a double-double. Amanda Carpenter joined Farmer and Kochenderfer in double figures for the Bearcats.
Whitworth finished the game shooting a season-high 36 percent from three in addition to a 44 percent game from the floor. The Pirates equaled their season's mark with a 79 percent day at the free throw line.
The Bucs will look to continue their four-game win streak when they take on Pacific (Ore.) Saturday afternoon. The Boxers and Pirates tip off in the Fieldhouse at 4:00 p.m.