WHITTIER, Calif. – Freshman center Tayler Martinez came off the bench to score a career-high 12 points, but Linfield could not ride the momentum of a three-point halftime lead to victory in a topsy-turvy closing half, dropping a 55-51 decision to Whittier Monday evening at Dave Jacobs Court.
Alex Coon led a trio of double-digit scorers for the Poets, posting a double-double with game highs of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Dannika Navales-Lugt and Brenda Kramer added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
After jumping out to a 4-0 lead within a minute, Linfield faithful watched as the Poets went off on a 9-0 run to claim their first advantage of the game. The Wildcats were 0-9 from the floor and 0-2 from the free throw line during that stretch, which lasted nearly seven minutes.
With the game tied at 15-all at the 7:45 mark of the first half, the ‘Cats pieced together their most sizable run, 6-0, to reclaim the lead, which lasted until the buzzer. Sparking Linfield to the 25-22 halftime advantage was Martinez, who had 10 points in just 11 minutes on 5-for-9 shooting from the floor.
After the break, Whittier needed just 1½ minutes to erase the deficit. Navales-Lugt scored the first five points of the second half, including an and-one play, to knot the game at 27-27. Things heated up after that; the final 18:31 featured six ties and nine changes.
The ‘Cats claimed their final lead of the game, 51-50, on a Tegan Grunwald layup with 3:23 to go. Those were the last points for the visitors, while the Poets scored five more, including three from the charity stripe.
Leading scorer Kaely Maltman finished with 12 points, including nine in the second half. Three-point shooting and free throws once again were weaknesses for the Wildcats, who knocked down just 2 of 14 attempts from behind the arc and 5 of 13 opportunities at the line. Linfield took much better care of the ball, however, turning the ball over a season-low 12 times.
Whittier picked up its first victory of the season, improving to 1-2, while Linfield (3-0) was left still searching for its first win.
AHEAD: Pomona-Pitzer is the next destination for the Wildcats, who are now on the downhill of a five-game road swing. Tuesday evening’s contest tips off 6 p.m.