For the 21st-ranked University of Puget Sound women’s basketball team to truly be considered a Northwest Conference contender, it must clear one final hurdle.
Winning meaninful games on the road.
The Loggers led with less than a minute remaining, but watched as No. 18 Whitworth closed on a 7-0 run, highlighted by a late 3-pointer, to snatch an 83-77 victory in Spokane.
The Pirates (15-1, 6-1 NWC) broke a tie for second place with the Loggers (13-2, 4-2). George Fox still sits atop the standings.
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KC McConnell, the league’s leading scorer (16.8 points per game), led Whitworth with 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Jessica Kramer added 20. Amanda Forshay paced the Loggers with 23 points.
“Their big-time players made big-time plays,” UPS coach Loree Payne said. “They kind of took (the victory).”
Forshay’s jumper gave the Loggers a 77-76 lead with 1:21 remaining.
But with the shot clock winding down, and a UPS defender in her face, Whitworth’s Lexie Zappone sank the game-winning 3-pointer with 56 seconds to go.
Forshay turned it over eight seconds later, and the Pirates went 4-for-4 from the free throw line down the stretch.
The Loggers’ only other loss on the road was a 77-55 loss at George Fox on Jan. 3. They play at defending NCAA Division III runner-up Whitman on Saturday in Walla Walla.
“It would be huge to get a win,” Payne said. “We have the majority of our games on the road in the second half … so it is time to step up and play better.”
At Whitman 90, Pacific Lutheran 56: Reigning conference player of the year Heather Johns poured in 24 points, and the defending league champion Missionaries (10-6, 5-2 NWC)buried the Lutes (4-11, 1-5) in Walla Walla.
Bailey Raines led PLU with 11 points, with Megan Abdo chipping in nine.
At Whitman 79, PLU 43: The Missionaries tallied 27 points off 24 turnovers by the Lutes en route to an easy victory in Walla Walla.
Jackson Clough led four Whitman scores in double figures with 15 points. The Missionaries sank 10 3-pointers.
Brandon Lester had 14 points for PLU (5-10, 3-3 NWC).
At Whitworth 78, UPS 72: Guard Matt Staudacher made four free throws for the Pirates (13-2, 6-0 NWC) in the final 21 seconds to kill a late, Keith Shattuck-led Loggers’ rally in Spokane.
UPS trailed 71-60 with 4:26 remaining, but Shattuck — who led the Loggers with 19 points — scored eight points in a 2:20 span, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Nick Holden’s layin for UPS (8-5, 3-2) cut it to 74-71 with 35 seconds to go, but that is as close as the Loggers got.