FOREST GROVE, Ore. - With first-year guard Kelly Peterson erupting for 19 first-half points, the Whitman College women's basketball team jumped to a big early lead and rolled to a 71-55 Northwest Conference victory over Pacific here Saturday afternoon.
Peterson tallied 19 of Whitman's first 31 points to power the Missionaries to an 18-point lead by the midpoint of the opening half.
The Boxers rallied to within eight point late in the half, but Whitman senior Hilary White nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Missionaries a 39-28 lead the break.
After White struck again from the 3-point stripe to open the second-half scoring, Pacific briefly trimmed its deficit to nine points before Whitman pulled away on a 20-7 run.
Mary Madden scored all of her nine points during that stretch, which gave the Missionaries their largest lead of the night at 62-40 with just over 10 minutes left to play.
Whitman, which started the night with the top field goal percent in the NWC, shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half and finished at 44.8 percent.
The Missionaries also made 13 of 15 free throws, including four straight from senior Dawna Mello that stretched the lead to 71-51 with three minutes left.
Winning for the fourth time in its last five games, injury-riddled Whitman improved to 5-7 in the NWC and 10-11 on the season. The Missionaries nearly upset league-leading George Fox Friday night, one week after subduing second-place Lewis & Clark.
The loss dropped Pacific to 3-9 and 6-13.
Peterson drilled all three of her 3-point attempts in the first half and was eight of nine from the floor overall in the first half. She finished with a career-high 21 points, five rebounds and two steals.
White added 12 points and five rebounds, and senior Michelle Krall just missed a double-double with 11 rebounds, nine points and three steals. Sexton also had nine points, making four of six shots from the floor.
Peterson and Sexton began the night with the top field goal percentages in NWC (conference games only).
Whitman, which leads the conference in assists, picked up 20 against Pacific, seven by Mello. The Missionaries also won the rebounding battle 38-34.
Rochelle Reeves-Howe and Mallory Goldhammer led Pacific with 14 and 11 points, respectively. The Boxers, who shot just 37 percent from the floor, also got nine points, three blocks and three steals from Erica Schultz and eight points and six boards from Julianne Erbe.
Whitman plays three of its last four games at home, starting Friday and Saturday against Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound. Both of those games start at 8 p.m. in Sherwood Center.
WHITMAN (71) - Mello 1-2 4-4 6, Peterson 8-12 2-2 21, White 4-13 2-2 12, Sexton 4-6 1-3 9, Krall 4-12 1-1 9, Vaculik 0-0 0-0 0, Gilbert 0-1 2-2 2, Madden 4-6 1-1 9, Brice 1-5 0-0 3, Keyes 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 13-15 71.
PACIFIC (55) - Schultz 4-9 0-0 9, Goldammer 4-8 2-2 11, Reeves-Howe 5-13 2-2 14, Erbe 4-9 0-0 8, Jensen 2-7 0-0 4, Frank 0-3 0-0 0, McArthur 0-2 0-0 0, Akers 1-3 0-0 2, Palmer 0-1 0-0 0, Anderson 2-5 3-4 7. Totals 22-60 7-8 55.
Halftime score - Whitman 39, Pacific 28.
3-point goals - Whitman 6 (Peterson 3, White 2, Brice), Pacific 4 (Schultz, Goldammer, Reeves-Howe 2). Total fouls - Pacific 16, Whitman 13. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - Whitman 38 (Krall 11), Pacific 34 (Erbe 6). Turnovers - Whitman 20, Pacific 19. Assists - Whitman 20 (Mello 7), Pacific 13 (Goldammer 3, Frank 3).