McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Kayla Johnson canned a game-high 22 points and teammate K.C. McConnell dropped in 18 more to power Whitworth past Linfield 74-54 in Northwest Conference action Saturday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Whitworth (11-4, 5-1 NWC won for the eighth time in nine outings to keep pace in the conference title chase. Linfield (5-10, 1-5 NWC) dropped its third straight.
Eighteen points and a perfect 8-for-8 shooting night by all-star Kaely Maltman went for naught, though Maltman paced three Wildcats to reach double figures in scoring. Katelyn Henson and Quincey Gibson (Jr., Issaquah, Wash.) each totaled 11 points. All three of Gibson's field goals field goals coming from behind the 3-point stripe.
The game was close midway through the first half before the Pirates forced the Wildcats into a series of costly turnovers. For the game, Linfield committed 21 turnovers compared to Whitworth's 10, including a sizable 10-1 disparity in the first half.
Jessica McMillan (Sr., McMinnville, Ore.) started off the scoring with a quick layup on Linfield's opening possession. Linfield built an 11-9 lead at the 14:44 mark on a deep Gibson 3-pointer from the left wing.
With 13:10 remaining and Linfield leading 13-11, the Pirates assumed the lead with Johnson layup and a Jessica Kramer floater. Kramer was fouled by McMillan and made the bonus free throw to complete the 3-point play.
Linfield answered on its next possession with another Gibson 3-pointer, bringing the teams even at 16.
Henson hit a baseline 3-pointer off a Maltman kick-out pass, giving the Wildcats a 26-25 lead at the 7:29 mark. The Pirates responded with a 3-pointer of their own, this one from McConnell, who put Whitworth ahead by a bucket.
The last 5:15 of the half proved pivotal for Linfield as the Pirates produced a 14-4 run.
At intermission, Whitworth led 42-30. Maltman was a perfect 5-5 from the field in the half while Johnson paced all scorers at the break with 14 points.
Linfield started the second period by scoring the first four points, all from the hands of Henson, forcing Whitworth to call a timeout at the 18:18 mark.
Coming out of the timeout, Whitworth began an 11-2 tear before Linfield called timeout with 14:39 on the clock. Three 3-pointers from three different Pirate players highlighted the run.
Gibson hit her third 3-pointer of the match and provided some energy in the building, trimming the visitor's lead to 14 at the 6:52 mark. But on the Pirates' next possession, Johnson swished a wide open 3-pointer to turn away the Wildcats once more.
Whitworth maintained its comfortable margin throughout the half, leading by as many as 21 with 2:42 remaining.
In addition to her 18 points, Maltman produced a game-high six assists and nabbed four rebounds. Taylor Solomon, fresh off a career-high 22-point performance a night earlier against nationally ranked Whitman, went scoreless, missing all seven of her field goal attempts.
AHEAD: The Wildcats meet the Pacific Lutheran Lutes in Tacoma, Wash., Friday night. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. with live audio coverage beginning at 5:50.