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 (Soph., Hillsboro, Ore.) 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 (Jr., Sandy, Ore.) 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.
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