Maybe it all came too easy.
For a young squad, the sixth-ranked University of Puget Sound women have had an unusually small number of low points this season.
That changed Friday night.
What appeared to be an easy walk toward the Northwest Conference’s No. 1 seed in the postseason for three quarters, suddenly became an unexpected dogfight.
But the Loggers survived for an 89-82 overtime victory over 15th-ranked Whitman at Memorial Fieldhouse in Tacoma.
Alexis Noren led all scorers for UPS with 21 points, including an 11-for-11 effort at the free throw line. Caitlin Malvar and Samone Jackson added 16 points apiece, and Jamie Lange had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
UPS (21-1, 13-0 in NWC) clinched a share of its first conference title since 2008. Up three games in the standings with three games to go, the Loggers can win the league title outright with a win Saturday against Whitworth in Tacoma.
At this point, the Loggers are surely returning to the NCAA Division III championships. So should the Blues, who came from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to send it to overtime.
UPS used a 10-0 run in the final 1:16 of the third quarter, highlighted by a five-point possession (Jackson’s 3-pointer and Meghan Hamel’s two free throws) in the final seconds, to grab a 71-54 lead.
But Whitman (19-3, 10-3) still had a big advantage on the interior, especially with Loggers post players Claire Fitzgerald and Lange on the bench with four fouls apiece.
“It was a struggle for us after getting in foul trouble, messing up our rotations,” UPS coach Loree Payne said. “We faced a lot of adversity.
“They are big, and we had to play small.”
And that is where the Blues attacked, also sprinkling in four 3-pointers in the final 5:04. They made nine of 16 field goals in the final 10 minutes.
And after Jackson missed two free throws with 20.1 seconds to go, Whitman sent the game into an extra period when Casey Poe made both her free throws seven seconds later.
Whitman actually took a lead, albeit briefly, 82-81, on Makana Stone’s bank shot with 2:37 remaining in overtime.
But on the Loggers’ next trip, Lange was fouled on an inside basket after an alley-oop pass by Jackson. She missed the free throw, but UPS retained possession. Seconds later, Lange scored again — and the Loggers were up, 85-82, and would not trail again.
“A lot was going against us in overtime. We didn’t have the momentum,” Noren said. “But tonight, we had so much to play for: ‘Pink Night’ (breast cancer awareness) for Coach Jo (Joleen LaMay), and then trying to be undefeated on the home floor — and also clinch the championship.
“Honestly, I think that is what pushed us through.”
And now that Noren and company can finally add an NWC title to their name?
“It feels unreal, especially because of how young we are,” Noren said. “I didn’t see this coming. The wave has been really fun.”
Whitworth 72, at Pacific Lutheran 60: The Pirates scored nine of the game’s first 11 points, jumped out to a 21-6 lead after the first 10 minutes and handed the Lutes their 15th consecutive loss at Olson Auditorium.
Kaelyn Voss led PLU with 16 points.
No. 2 Whitman 92, at UPS 87: Joey Hewitt scored 24 points, and the Blues clinched their first NWC title since 1987 in remaining the lone undefeated NCAA Division III at Memorial Fieldhouse.
Whitman (22-0, 13-0 in NWC) went on a 17-6 run over a four-minute span midway through the second half to take a 73-57 lead with 8:53 to go.
Kohl Meyer led UPS (12-10, 5-8) with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Carlos Mancasola added 17 points. The Loggers turned the ball over 23 times.
No. 6 Whitworth 72, at PLU 48: Kyle Roach’s three-point play triggered a 12-0 Pirates run midway through the second half, and the reigning NWC champions pulled away for a victory at Olson Auditorium.
Kenny Love capped the run with his jumper, and the Pirates led, 54-41 with 7:09 remaining.
PLU (11-11, 6-7) went ice cold the final 12 minutes of the game, scoring just seven points the rest of the way. Jared Christy led the Lutes with 14 points.