PARKLAND, Wash. – Taylor Solomon poured in 27 points – a career high and the highest single-game total by any Wildcat this season – to propel Linfield to a lopsided 82-60 Northwest Conference victory over Pacific Lutheran at Names Family Court Friday evening.
Solomon's 4-for-5 effort from beyond the arc highlighted a lights-out shooting performance put on by the Wildcats, who rained a eight 3-pointers on the Lutes and registered a season-high 54.5 total field goal percentage. Kaely Maltman added 21 points and seven rebounds, with Katelyn Henson corralling a team-high 10 rebounds to go along with seven points.
Linfield scored its second conference victory of the year, improving to 2-5 against league opponents and 6-10 overall. With the loss, the Lutes fell to an identical record. Samantha Potter's double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds and Katelyn Smith's 17 points paced PLU on the night.
The ‘Cats led by nine at halftime, but retained its offensive efficiency through the second period while cruising to the 22-point victory. About the only fault in the Wildcats' game could be found at the free throw line, where Linfield knocked down just 14 of 29 opportunities. Pacific Lutheran also won the rebounding battle, 49-40.
Five past-paced and sharp-shooting minutes followed tipoff, with Linfield leading Pacific Lutheran 15-9 by just the second play stoppage: a 30-second timeout called by Lutes first-year head coach Jennifer Childress. Out of the timeout, however, the scoring stalled for both teams until Solomon hit 1-of-2 free throws with 13:35 on the clock.
Potter, PLU's leading scorer, ended nearly a four-minute scoring drought for the Lutes with her first points of the game, two free throws, with 13:09 to play. An Andrea Adams 3-pointer brought the Lutes to within four, 20-16, with 8:43 to play, but Jessica McMillan responded with a trey from the right corner to keep the spread at seven.
Trailing by nine, their largest deficit of the game, the Lutes used back-to-back layups from Smith and Kara Sherman as part of a 5-0 run that dwindled Linfield's lead to 25-21 with 5:11 to play. Riley Graham (Sr., Scio, Ore.) scored on a put-back from the left block, however, to put the ‘Cats back up by six.
Keeping possessions alive with 10 total first-half offensive rebounds, PLU continued to flirt with Linfield's lead. But every time the home team got close, the Wildcats, and often Solomon in particular, slammed the window of opportunity. Potter pulled the Lutes within four, 31-27, before Solomon singlehandedly spearheaded a 7-2 spurt, including a step-back 3-pointer from the left wing and a transition bucket off a Henson steal, that put Linfield back ahead by nine.
Graham answered Megan Abdo's 3-pointer with yet another make from downtown, the last field goal of the half, with 58 seconds on the clock.
By intermission, the Wildcats had knocked down 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc en route to a 43-33 advantage on the scoreboard. Solomon hit three of those treys as part of a 6-for-8 shooting performance that gave the junior guard 16 points by the break. Maltman balanced Linfield's outside game with 10 points in the paint and from the charity stripe.
McMillan knocked down a baseline jumper to give the ‘Cats their largest lead of the game thus far, 45-33 just 48 into the second half.
Pacific Lutheran twice brought the deficit down to single digit before the Wildcats quickly ran away with the game. Maltman converted a 3-point play, Solomon knocked down a jumper and Maltman scored two more points on a layup that give Linfield a 54-38 lead.
Smith's jumper with 15:36 remaining finally pushed the Lutes past the 38-point plateau, but by then the ‘Cats were in firm control. Linfield continued to shoot lights-out from beyond the arc, even getting a rare four-point play from Quincey Gibson (Sr., Issaquah, Wash.), as the visitors expanded their lead to as many as 19 points, 61-42, with 13:38 to go.
The Lutes tried to make things interesting, but got no closer than 14 midway through the second half. With 5:42 to go, however, the lead had swelled back to 20 and it proved insurmountable for the home team.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Both of Linfield's Northwest Conference victories this season have come on the road…the Wildcats have now won six of the most recent seven matchups against the Lutes, including four straight away victories…Linfield's 82 points were the most in conference action this year, and six off from the team's overall season high...Maltman has scored in double figures in six of seven career contests against Pacific Lutheran.
COMING UP: Linfield hops back on the bus and returns to McMinnville late Friday night to prepare for a Saturday evening matchup against Pacific beginning at 6 p.m.