McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Whitworth senior Lexi Belcher pumped in a career-high 28 points, overshadowing a 33-point outburst by Linfield senior Gretchen Owens to push the visiting Pirates to an 88-69 victory over Linfield in Northwest Conference action Friday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
With three games remaining in the regular season, Whitworth (10-12, 6-7 NWC) remained in contention for the four-team NWC playoff tournament. Linfield (10-12, 4-9 NWC) now must win its remaining three contests in order to secure a second straight winning season.
Belcher blistered the nets for eight 3-pointers – including five long bombs in the second half – in pacing the Pirates to the lopsided road win. She hit 10-of-16 shots, while adding five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Emily Guthrie added 12 points and Jamie Lyons chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Owens made 11-of-22 shots and was a perfect 8-of-8 at the free throw line. The Wildcats senior shared game-high honors with eight rebounds to go along with six assists and three steals in 39 minutes of action.
The first half resembled a dog fight with 11 lead changes and five ties. Neither team gained more than a five-point advantage during the opening 15 minutes, the largest bulge coming in Whitworth’s favor at the 7:14 mark of the period, 30-25. The Pirates were able to push their advantage to nine with 1:02 left in the period, though the Wildcats pulled back to within four, 42-38, after Alex Christensen banked in a buzzer-beating shot in the paint.
Linfield shot 59 percent from the floor to Whitworth’s 48 percent. But the Pirates were much more accurate from long range (4-of-9) and the free throw line (8-of-10). Linfield made just two 3-pointers and were a a less-than-stellar 2-of-7 from the stripe.
Owens did her customary damage to start the game, hitting 7-of-10 from close range to lead the way with 16 first-half points. Whitworth’s Lexi Belcher was Owens’ equal at the other end, scoring 14 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.
The second half was a different story. The Pirates stormed out of the gates, outscoring the hosts 27-13 over the next 10 minutes. The Wildcats were within 10 at 75-65 with 6:56 to play, but the Pirates went on an 10-2 run to end all hope of a Linfield comeback.
Brynna Fuller added 11 points, Kaely Maltman had nine and Christensen provided eight points and two assists off the bench.
The Pirates outrebounded the ‘Cats 32-26 and forced 19 turnovers. The Whitworth bench also outpaced their Linfield counterparts, 18-8.
NEXT: The Wildcats are home Saturday night to face the Whitman Missionaries. The game tips off with a special start time of 4 o’clock to enable Whitman to return home sooner.