Missionaries' 2-3 zone sparks second-half comeback win

Kelly Peterson and Dawna Mello spark a 2-3 zone defense that fuels the Missionaries' 61-56 comeback victory over Lewis and Clark.

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Whitman's Hilary White (21) takes a reclined view of the court, forcing space between herself and Lewis & Clark defender Christina Herring (24) during the second half of their conference matchup Friday night.

WALLA WALLA — With Kelly Peterson and Dawna Mello flying around at the top of Whitman’s 2-3 zone defense, the Missionaries charged back from a 30-24 halftime deficit to defeat Lewis and Clark 61-56 Friday in a Northwest Conference women’s basketball game at Sherwood Center.

"It’s about time we won a close one," Missionary coach Michelle Ferenz said. "We’ve had a tough season with injuries and things, and just dropping close games. We keep talking about having the confidence to finish. I was real proud of the kids effort (tonight), so hopefully we’ve turned the corner a little bit."

Despite eight points from Rebecca Sexton and seven from Hilary White, the Missionaries only connected on 10-of-32 from the field (31 percent) in the first half, and L&C got 10 points from 5-foot-11 post Talerra Rich and shot 44 percent from the field to build a 30-24 lead at the break.

"Part of that (being down six) was missing shots and forcing some things offensively," Ferenz said of the first half. "We switched up in the second half and played more zone. We put more pressure on their perimeters."

With Peterson and Mello harassing from the top of Whitman’s zone, the Pioneers didn’t get a bucket until Kristina Williams, who led the Pioneers with 14 points, connected at the 17:25 mark to keep L&C’s lead at six, 32-26.

"The two up front were working their butts off," Ferenz said. "They did a great job."

A White dish, one of her team-leading four assists, to Mello for a trey cut the lead to 32-29 with 15:35 to play.

A Mello bucket was followed by a Sexton conversion, and then Peterson’s trey got Whitman even at 36-36 with 11:45 left.

Two ties and two lead changes later, White found Sexton in the lane for a basket and a 44-42 Whitman lead with 5:54 left.

A White free throw followed by her steal and coast-to-coast drive put the Missionaries up 47-44 with 4:47 to play.

"We didn’t want to give them anything," White said of the second half. "We knew we had to stop them from shooting 3s. We just hustled. We had to find the open gaps and execute."

White found Sexton inside with 3:25 left. Sexton hit the shot and Whitman had its largest lead at 50-44.

Back came the Pioneers. Consecutive scores from Sara Villanueava capped a 7-0 L&C run, as the Pioneers regained the lead at 51-50 with 2:08 to play.

White answered with a deuce and Whitman had the lead for good at 52-51 with 1:55 left.

"I’m sick of losing," White, a senior, said. "I was just ready to do whatever it would take."

The Missionaries marched to the foul line and converted seven-of-eight over the last 1:41. Peterson hit two, Michelle Krall hit two, Peterson hit two more, and White finished the deal with one-of-two as Whitman improved to 3-6 in the NWC and avenged an earlier 53-38 loss to L&C in Portland.

Peterson and Sexton scored 16 points each to lead the Whits on offense. White finished with a double-double — 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Whitman hosted Willamette Saturday.

LEWIS AND CLARK (56) — Williams 5-11 4-6 14, Dowling 0-6 0-0 0, Rich 3-10 3-4 10, Herring 3-8 0-0 7, Spence 2-4 0-0 4, Villanueava 3-4 2-2 8, Relyea 0-1 0-0 0, Hauser 4-9 4-4 13. Totals 20-53 13-16 56.

WHITMAN (61) — Mello 2-6 0-1 5, Peterson 5-11 4-5 16, White 4-13 5-10 14, Sexton 8-9 0-0 16, Krall 0-5 2-2 4, Vaculik 0-0 0-0 0, Gilbert 1-2 2-2 4, Madden 0-3 0-0 0, Brice 2-4 0-0 4, Keyes 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 22-57 13-20 61.

Halftime — L&C 30, Whitman 24. 3-point goals–L&C 3-17 (Williams 0-4, Dowling 0-2, Rich 1-3, Herring 1-5, Hauser 1-3), Whitman 4-22 (Mello 1-4, Peterson 2-3, White 1-8, Krall 0-2, Gilbert 0-1, Keyes 0-3, Brice 0-1). Total fouls — L&C 23, Whitman 19. Fouled out — L&C (Williams), Whitman (Sexton). Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — L&C 29 (Dowling 8), Whitman 44 (White 13). Turnovers — L&C 14, Whitman 19. Assists — L&C 10 (Herring 5), Whitman 12 (White 4).

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