Whits sink #17 Pirates

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WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Putting together one its most complete games of the season, Whitman College's women's basketball team rolled past 17th-ranked Whitworth University Tuesday night, downing the visiting Pirates, 70-43, in Northwest Conference action at the Sherwood Athletics Center. Heather Johns led the charge for the Missionaries with a double-double, notching game-highs in points (26) and rebounds (11) while also adding in game-bests in assists (5) and steals (4).

The victory inches third-place Whitman (13-7, 8-3 NWC) closer to second-place Whitworth (18-2, 9-2) within the league standings.

There was hardly a statistical category that the Missionaries didn't fail to gain the upper hand over the Pirates. Rebounds? 52-32, Whitman. Second-chance points? Whitman, again, 16-4. The M's doubled up Whitworth with 36 points in the paint compared to only 18 from the visitors.

Tenacious defense and patience and ball handling in the offensive end played big roles during the win in front of a rowdy White-Out crowd on Battle of the Whits night.

Whitman forced 14 turnovers, pulled down 34 defensive rebounds and limited the Pirates to just a 28-percent night from the floor. In their offensive end, the M's shot 45 percent for the game -- including a 52 percent second half in which they poured in 42 points -- and used 18 offensive boards to put back those 16 second-chance points.

Two segments in the game told the tale of Whitman's offensive and defensive night.

Trailing 6-4 early in the game the M's ran off 14 straight points during a scoreless span of 7 minutes, 33 seconds from Whitworth. Late in the half the Pirates had crawled back to within five, 23-18, but a Hailey Ann Maeda layup and a 3-pointer from Chelsi Brewer kicked off an 18-4 run that continued into the second half.

Already ahead by eight, 28-20, Whitman continued the Maeda and Brewer first-half finish by scoring the first six points of the second half. By the time the run was over Whitman had stretched its advantage to 39-22 with only five minutes expired in the half. Whitworth pulled to within 15 twice in the next minutes but there was just too much going the Missionaries' way as their advantage continued to grow over the final 14 minutes of action.

Johns' night could hardly have been better. She was 9-of-15 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free-throw line during a night in which she was a spark from baseline to baseline.

"She was a leader tonight," reflected head coach Michelle Ferenz. "That was an All-American performance, and when she plays like that, her teammates also take that positive step."

Maeda also finished in double-figures with 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds, while first-year Emily Rommel posted a career-high night on the glass with 10 boards including seven in the offensive end. Heather Lovelace also put together a solid night with six rebounds, two blocks and an assist to go along with four points.

Whitworth, without a player scoring in double figures, was led by Jessica Kramer's nine points. KC McConnell helped on the boards with 10 rebounds.

The victory was Whitman's third straight, a string the M's will seek to lengthen Friday evening when they take on host Linfield College (9-10, 3-7 NWC) at 6 p.m. in McMinnville, Oregon.