NOTE: The version of this story that appeared in Issue 9 of The Whitworthian incorrectly quoted Head Coach Helen Higgs as saying, “We were playing hard, but we were running around without any direction.” The quote should have read, “We were playing hard, but we were running around without much direction.” The article in this online edition reflects this change.
by Peter Houston-Hencken
The women’s basketball team battled through some close games last weekend. The Friday night match entered an intense overtime and ended with the George Fox University Bruins’ narrow win, 53-52. The next day, the Pirates achieved victory against the Pacific University Boxers, 66-58, and ended the weekend with a record of 11-3-0 in conference play.
The Friday night game demonstrated how evenly matched the Bruins and Pirates were with each half ending with one team ahead by only one point.
The first half began with both teams scrambling for a solid lead. Whitworth managed to pull ahead with the help of junior forward KC McConnell and held a small lead for most of the first half. However, George Fox was able to make a comeback and end the half with 23 points and a one-point lead.
Head coach Helen Higgs trained the Pirates to avoid a repeat of the last George Fox game, which resulted in a dramatic 70-39 defeat.
“We attacked their zone a little bit smarter this game, so we got a little bit better shot selection,” Higgs said.
Whitworth’s defense had a rocky start in the second half, allowing George Fox to hold their lead with a score of 31-24. But the Pirates soon took charge with help from senior forward Katara Belton-Sharp, scoring six baskets from the field as well as a 3-pointer.
“We definitely emphasized defense in practice. This week especially, if you missed the box-out, you had a set of lines, or you were pulled from the drill,” Belton-Sharp said.
The Pirates’ offense improved in the second half and put up an additional 29 points for the Bucs. However, the Bruins success on offense continued as they scored 28 points during the half and tied the game at 51-51.
The match on Friday night progressed into overtime due to a last-second, crowd-electrifying 3-pointer from Belton-Sharp to tie the score. George Fox scored a field goal 40 seconds into overtime. Whitworth was able to answer with a free throw, putting them within one. With only a minute left, the Pirates attempted to take the lead, but were unable to convert on their final play and score a last-second 3-pointer.
The game ended with George Fox winning, 53-52. After this weekend, George Fox’s women’s basketball team has a record of 13-0.
The game on Saturday night against Pacific did not start off in Whitworth’s favor. In the first two minutes, the Boxers started off strong and scored six points. While the ball seemed to stay on Whitworth’s side of the court, Pacific’s offense scored quickly on each of its possessions.
Whitworth was able to score 22 points in the half, but its defense was lacking. Despite McConnell’s 3-8 shooting, the Pirates were behind after allowing Pacific to score 29 points in the first half.
“We got angry that we were down at half. We played passive in the first half, so we just buckled down on defense,” McConnell said.
The Pirates turned the tables on the Boxers for the second half by tying the score five minutes in. After senior guard Lexie Zappone hit a 3-pointer, putting Whitworth ahead, the Pirates held onto their lead for the rest of the game.
“Our focus was the first thing that changed [in the second half], and then our energy together. We came together as a team, and we picked up our defense, which led to our offense,” Zappone said.
Zappone and McConnell carried the team in the second half scoring 22 and 17 points, respectively, en route to a 66-58 victory.
“We talked about being more focused, mentally. We were playing hard, but we were running around without much direction. You have to think about what you’re doing,” Higgs said.
Pacific University left Whitworth with a record of 5-8-0. Next weekend the Pirates will face the Pacific Lutheran Knights in Parkland, Washington, and the Puget Sound Loggers in Tacoma.