Riggs' Free Throws Secure Bearcat Win Over Sagehens

Sami Riggs goes up for the layup.
Sami Riggs (Jr., G, La Verne, CA/Bonita HS)

CLAREMONT, Calif. – Junior guard Sami Riggs (La Verne, CA/Bonita HS) knocked down a pair of free throws with five seconds remaining as the Willamette University women's basketball team held off Pomona-Pitzer University (CA), 68-64, on Saturday, Nov. 27. The Bearcats improved to 5-3 on the season while Pomona-Pitzer dropped to 2-4 overall.

Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil (Jr., F, Boise, Idaho/Timberline HS) finished an assist from Riggs to tie the game with just under a minute to play and came up with a big steal on the other end to set up the go-ahead basket. Ascuena-Mercil returned the favor, finding Riggs for a short jumper to put the Bearcats up, 66-64, with 32 seconds remaining in regulation. Ascuena-Mercil then controlled a defensive rebound and made a quick outlet pass, not allowing Pomona-Pitzer to foul until there was just six seconds on the clock.

The Sagehens were still under the limit and had to foul again to put Willamette on the foul line. Riggs converted both free throws and a last second three-point attempt by Madison Quan was off the mark for the final of 68-64. Quan finished with a game-high 30 points to lead the Sagehens in the losing effort.

The Bearcats jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the first quarter, led 20-13 with just under two minutes to play, and held a 24-20 advantage at the end of the period. Ava Kitchin (So., F, Redmond, OR/Redmond HS) had a strong start, going 4-for-4 from the field to lead the Bearcats with eight points.

The Sagehens used an 8-2 run to take their first lead of the game, 28-26, with 6:11 to play in the first half. Carolyn Ho (So., G, Parker, CO/Ponderosa HS) hit a three-pointer with 1:30 to play in the half and combined with Kitchin to give Willamette a 38-36 edge at halftime.

The teams traded leads early in the third quarter before the Bearcats gained a little separation, pulling in front, 47-41, with 4:33 remaining in the period. The Sagehens closed the gap with Willamette taking a 53-50 advantage into the final 10 minutes.

A three-pointer and a lay-up put Pomona-Pitzer on top, 64-62, with 2:21 remaining in the game. That set the stage for Riggs and Ascuena-Mercil to finish things off and lead Willamette to their fifth win of the season.

The Bearcats used a balanced attack with four players reaching double-figures on the afternoon. Riggs finished with 18 points, hitting a trio of three-pointers to go with three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Kitchin went 7-for-9 from the floor, adding 14 points, three rebounds and two steals.

Ho tallied 11 points, four rebounds and four assists while Amanda Carpenter (Gr., G, Beaverton, OR/Sunset HS) scored 10 points to go with five rebounds. Ascuena-Mercil led the Bearcats with 10 rebounds, adding two assists, three steals and a pair of blocks, scoring four points.

The Bearcats return home and will open Northwest Conference play on Friday night, Dec. 3, hosting Whitman College at Cone Field House. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 pm (PST).