Filip Timotija | Staff Writer
After coming off three straight wins, the Whitworth women’s basketball team squared off against Willamette on Saturday, Dec. 4 in their first NWC game. The Pirates ended up losing 59-58 to the Bearcats.
Whitworth did not have a great start in first quarter committing five turnovers in the first five minutes of action. This helped Willamette establish an early lead.
The Pirates responded on the offensive end with Macey Morales scoring four points. Talia Brandner converted two mid-range jumpers to cut the Bearcats lead down to one point.
Willamette had a 11-10 lead after the first 10 minutes of play.
The Pirates took their first lead four minutes into the second quarter after Megan Dorney’s mid-range jumper that put Whitworth up 14-13.
For the rest of the quarter, the Pirates struggled to put points on the board by only adding four more to their total.
“We weren’t as focused as we needed to be,” coach Joial Griffith said. “Defense was coming over, so we were worried what the defense was going to do versus focusing on finishing.”
Willamette was the aggressor on the offensive glass. This allowed the Bearcats to retrieve and maintain their lead for the rest of the quarter.
Willamette tallied 14 points in the paint while Whitworth had two points in the key during the first half.
The Bearcat bench contributed nine points which outweighed the production of the Pirates’ bench that scored two.
Morales led the Pirates in scoring with seven points. Only four players scored for Whitworth in the first half.
Willamette had 23-18 lead heading into the third quarter.
“First half, we did not take care of the basketball the way I know we can,” Griffith said. “Part of that is that we were a little bit tight. Just coming out – first conference game, knowing what’s at stake, being on the road. That definitely contributed to our slowness. I think once we settled in the second half, it was much better. We took care of the ball down the stretch. We just missed free throws and boxouts down the stretch.”
Olivia Mayer helped Whitworth cut Willamette’s early third-period lead to two after scoring a two-pointer. The Bearcats answered with an 8-2 run that extended their lead to seven.
Brandner countered with her own 5-point scoring run in last minute of the third quarter.
Willamette was still leading 39-34 entering the last period.
The Bearcats carved their biggest lead at 43-34 after a Pirate turnover that led to a wide-open layup.
Brandner had the hot hand and she responded with a three to halt Willamette’s momentum.
That sparked the rest of the Pirates squad who was close on three occasions to take the lead.
“They [upperclassmen] understand what conference all is about,” Griffith said. Locking down on the defensive end. We got some big stops, but also Talia [Brandner] got hot, Megan [Dorney] was super reliable, they were sending multiple people to her. Quincy [McDeid] hit a big three. We just had multiple people make plays down the stretch. We missed a lot of layups in the first half that I think dictated a part of the second half.”
Whitworth eventually took the lead with 2:32 left in the game after Quincy McDeid sunk both free throws.
The Bearcats responded with a pair of twos that retrieved their lead.
With 29 seconds left and down three, Whitworth had a chance to tie or cut the lead to one. Brandner had a great look but missed the layup which forced the Pirates to foul.
Willamette converted only one free throw which gave Whitworth another chance.
With 10 seconds left, Morales pulled up in transition and drained a three to cut the lead to one.
The Pirates fouled immediately, but the Bearcats converted both attempts from the foul line.
With eight seconds left and down three, Morales pushed the ball in transition and tried to create a good shot to tie the game, but her long-range attempt was short, and it landed in the hands of McDeid who made a layup that confirmed Willamette’s one-point victory.
Brandner led Whitworth with 17 points, while Dorney had 12 points and six rebounds. McDeid had 11 while Morales added ten points.
The Pirates shot 22-52 (42.3%) from the field, while going 6-15 (40%) from distance.
Turnovers were one of the key factors for the loss due to accumulating 19 over the course of the game.
Willamette was led by Ava Kitchen who scored 15 points and had seven rebounds. Carolyn Ho added ten for the home team.
The Bearcats won the battle on the glass by pulling down 37 rebounds, while Whitworth secured 32.
Willamette had 36 points in the paint and 28 bench points. Whitworth had 18 points in the paint and 8 points off the bench.
The Pirates will host Whitman Tuesday night in the Fieldhouse. The Blues are coming in as the 2nd-ranked team in the country.
“We are excited to play. I know the team is super excited,” Griffith said. “I think we have a very good shot at winning this game. Whitman is not unbeatable. Yeah, they are a strong and tough team and [they] have earned their number two ranking. They have multiple weapons, but on the defensive end we have a pretty good plan of defending their post players because a lot of their offense is generated through the post. We have to slow down their guards. They are shooting a lot of threes so understanding that we have to contest without fouling, and boxout on the rebounds. If we can limit their top two scorers from getting paint touches that they usually get, we are going to put ourselves in a great position. On the offensive end for us, we have to move the ball, getting inside-out touches, making sure we hit the hot hand. If we can hit the hot hand, we will definitely give ourselves a good shot.”