By Charlie McGuire, Athletic Communications Assistant
SALEM, Ore. – The Willamette University women's basketball team held off a late run by visiting Whitworth University for a 59-58 win on Saturday afternoon at Cone Field House. The Bearcats improved to 6-4 overall and moved to 1-1 in the Northwest Conference. Whitworth slipped to 3-4 on the season and 0-1 in the NWC.
The Bearcats struck first and held an 11-10 advantage at the end of the first quarter, led by a combined eight points from Ava Kitchin (So., F, Redmond, OR/Redmond HS) and Amanda Carpenter (Gr., G, Beaverton, OR/Sunset HS). CarolAnn Edwards (So., F, Spokane, WA/University HS) had a strong start to the second quarter as Willamette built the lead to 22-14 at the 4:28 mark. Kitchin tallied nine points in the first half, adding three rebounds, while Edwards controlled seven rebounds to go with six points before the break.
Edwards knocked down a jumper at the 5:24 mark of the third period to put the Bearcats on top, 31-25, and Carolyn Ho (So., G, Parker, CO/Ponderosa HS) scored back-to-back field-goals to stretch the margin to eight with 2:33 remaining in the quarter. The teams traded baskets down the stretch with Whitworth adding a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 39-34, heading into the fourth.
Ho opened the final quarter with an assist to Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil (Boise, ID/Timberline) and added another field goal to extend the lead to nine. Whitworth put together a 10-2 run to cut the margin to 45-44, with just under six minutes remaining in regulation.
The Pirates pulled in front, 51-50, with 2:34 on the clock, but back-to-back scores from Sami Riggs (Jr., G, LaVerne, CA/Bonita HS) and Megan River (So., G, Tumwater, WA/A.G. West Black Hills HS) put Willamette back on top. A Carpenter free throw gave the Bearcats a four-point lead with just 20 seconds to play, but the Pirates weren't quite done.
Macey Morales made a three-pointer on the other end and Whitworth had to foul, sending Ho to the free throw line. Ho converted both ends to make the score, 59-56, with 11 seconds remaining. Morales' three-pointer was off the mark and Quincy McDeid grabbed the miss and scored, but the Bearcats would come away with the win.
Kitchin led the Bearcats with 15 points and seven rebounds, adding a pair of steals and two blocked shots. Edwards scored eight points and controlled a game-high eight rebounds while handing out three assists. Ho reached double-figures with 10 points to go with three assists and four steals.
Carpenter finished with seven points, four rebounds, and four assists while Riggs and Ascuena-Mercil each scored seven points and combined for seven rebounds on the night. As a team, the Bearcats hit 7 of 10 free throws and held a 37-32 advantage on the boards.
Willamette will have a break before returning to action on Dec. 29, hosting Carroll College (Mont.) at Cone Field House. Opening tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. (PST).