McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Heather Johns turned in a game-high 19 points for visiting Whitman as the Missionaries maintained a steady lead through the closing minutes and held off host Linfield 67-53 in a NWC matchup Saturday evening inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
The victory gives the Missionaries a chance to share the 2012-13 NWC title with Lewis & Clark. Should the Pioneers lose to Pacific Lutheran, Whitman and Lewis & Clark would share the crown with identical conference records.
Sarah Anderegg scored a dozen points and Mary Madden added 10 more for Whitman, and Meghan White grabbed a game-high eight boards. Whitman shot a solid 44.1 percent from the field on the game, and a near-perfect 13-of-14 from the free-throw line.
Kaely Maltman supplied 14 points for the Wildcats, and Katelyn Henson added 10 points and three rebounds. The Missionaries outrebounded the ‘Cats 46-28 on the game, and Whitman scored 15 second-chance points. Linfield lost its fifth contest in a row and now sits at 2-19 on the season and 1-14 in NWC play with one game left on the schedule.
Madden converted a layup a minute into the game to put the Missionaries on the board first. Maltman fought her way through the lane and drew a foul to get to the free throw line. The junior standout drained both shots for Linfield’s first points.
Whitman, the NWC leader in shooting percentage, put together a 9-2 run to capture an early 11-4 lead. Linfield battled back, however, as Catie Mets alertly grabbed her own rebound on a missed free throw and finished a layup to make it a four-point game.
The Missionaries (20-4, 13-3 NWC) put together a 7-0 run moving through the middle part of the first, a dry spell that lasted more than five minutes for the Wildcats. A free throw from Henson finally broke the silence and put the score at 18-8 in favor of Whitman.
A big three-point play from Madden with 4:58 to go before the break upped the spread to 11. A 15-foot jumper from Taylor Solomon followed by a layup from Alex Christensen put the ‘Cats back into striking range with less than three minutes left. Henson worked her way inside and Christensen got the ball to her, leading to a layup that made the score 21-18.
Whitman regained composure inside a minute to play, and a quick 6-0 blitz put the Missionaries up 27-18 heading into the break. The ‘Cats were outrebounded in the first 26-17, and shot just 24.1 percent from the field compared to a 37 percent mark for the Missionaries.
A three from the corner by Nicole Barton started the scoring in the second, as Linfield chipped away at Whitman’s lead. Barton drained another shot from downtown two minutes later, which helped prevent Whitman from pulling away early on.
Mets found the net from long range, but Madden answered with a three of her own and Whitman held a solid 40-29 advantage. Linfield kept pace with Whitman moving through the middle part of the second, but failed to make a significant dent in the Missionaries’ consistent double-digit lead.
Johns fought her way to the rim and completed a three-point play with 8:36 remaining. Tiffani Traver followed with a layup on the ensuing possession, and the score sat at 49-38 with eight minutes left.
Whitman comfortably held its lead moving towards the final buzzer, and the Missionaries prevented any kind of comeback in the last three minutes.
NOTE: Start time was delayed approximately 70 minutes due to a lack of an officiating crew at the expected start time of 4 p.m.
AHEAD: Linfield closes out the 2012-13 season with a makeup game Tuesday, Feb. 19 against Willamette. The Wildcats and Bearcats are set to tip off at 6 p.m. inside Ted Wilson Gym.