SPOKANE, Wash. - The Whitworth women's basketball team opened the home conference schedule with a 59-52 win over Whitman Tuesday night, tying the best start to a season in program history and ending the Missionaries' 22-game regular season conference winning streak.
With the win, the 13th-ranked Pirates (12-0, 3-0 NWC) tied the 2004-2005 Whitworth squad for the best start in program history. The Missionaries (7-5, 2-1) suffered their first regular season conference loss since February 2013. Whitman used an undefeated NWC regular season last year on its way to the championship game of the NCAA Division III tournament.
Jessica Kramer tied a career high with 19 points on 7-13 shooting and also tied a career high with 13 rebounds to lead Whitworth. Katara Belton-Sharp added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Pirates.
Whitworth clung to a 49-48 lead with 3:40 remaining before closing the contest with a 10-4 run to put away the Missionaries. Belton-Sharp helped ignite the late run by hitting two 3-pointers -- the second of which gave Whitworth a 57-50 lead with 1:32 to play.
A layup by Hailey Ann Maeda with 43 seconds remaining cut the lead 57-52, but Kendra Knutsen made two free throws with 26 seconds left to help put the game away.
After a tight first half, Whitman scored the first basket of the second half for a 27-25 lead. The Pirates responded with a 8-2 run to open a 33-29 lead and maintained a single-digit lead for the rest of the contest. After taking the four-point lead, the Pirates held off a Whitman squad that came within two points of Whitworth on five occasions during the second half.
Both teams shot better than 45 percent from the field in the second half. Whitworth shot 70 percent (21-30) from the free-throw line in the game while Whitman made 11 of 14 attempts. Both teams struggled from long range, as Whitworth hit just 2 of 13 from deep and Whitman was 1-12.
Maeda scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the Missionaries. Heather Johns added 16 points for Whitman.
Whitworth continues NWC play Friday night, hosting Linfield. Tipoff is set for 6:00 pm.