For the six seniors on the No. 21 University of Puget Sound women’s basketball team, Saturday’s “Senior Night” game against Whitworth was only going to be their final home game if they lost.
The Loggers made sure they would have at least one more home game, defeating No. 20 Whitworth, 82-78, in the Northwest Conference regular-season finale.
The two teams went into Saturday’s game tied for second place, and each knew they would meet again on Thursday in the NWC tournament — but the question was where. The Loggers secured the home court with the win, and they will host Whitworth at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Puget Sound (22-3, 13-3 NWC) will take a seven-game win streak into the conference tournament.
“I feel like we are starting to play our best basketball,” said Loggers coach Loree Payne. “It’s an exciting time to be playing it, at the end of the season.”
The Loggers have six seniors on the roster, and they made major contributions Saturday. Amanda Forshay, Katy Ainslie, Ashley Agcaoili, Hannah Lekson, Olivia Roberts, and Erin Strumbaugh combined to score 52 of the Loggers 82 points.
The group was Payne’s first recruiting class, and their senior year resulted in the Logger’s best record under her watch.
“They’ve had goals set out since arriving on campus, and they are achieving those goals,” Payne said.
The Loggers’ lead was just five points before a 14-5 run gave UPS a 65-51 lead with 8 minutes, 19 seconds to play. Forshay’s three-point play capped the scoring run, helping her finish with 16 points.
Junior guard Emily Sheldon ended up leading Puget Sound with 17 points.
Guard Kendra Knutsen led all scorers with 21 points for the Pirates (21-4, 12-4).
Chelsea Brewer’s 20 points led Whitman (16-9, 11-5 NWC), while Tayler Flemming added 11 points for PLU (5-20, 2-14).
Puget Sound (12-12, 7-9 NWC) trailed by 18 points midway through the second half, yet battled back to tie the game at 63 on James Osorio’s steal and 3-pointer with 25 seconds left.
George Valle answered with the winning basket for Whitworth (22-3, 15-1).
Five seniors played in their final game for the Loggers, including leading scorers Nick Holden and Erin Barber.
Holden scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. He averaged 16.8 points a game and is a candidate for all-conference honors.
“We just wanted to leave it all on the court today,” said Holden, a four-year player for UPS. “It’s been a great experience here at Puget Sound, and if I could go back and do it again I’d do it the same way.”
Barber added 15 points and finished his senior year with a 14.9 average.
The Pirates are the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which starts Thursday.
Matt Mounier had eight of those points, helping Whitman (20-5, 14-2) finish with the No. 2 seed. Kyle Sawtell’s 21 points off the bench led PLU (8-17, 6-10).