WALLA WALLA - The men's and women's basketball teams at Whitman College face a pair of early Northwest Conference tests this weekend in Sherwood Center.
George Fox provides the opposition Friday night on George Ball Court with Lewis & Clark on tap for Saturday.
The women's games start at 6 p.m. both nights with the men's games to follow at about 8.
The Whitman men, off to a 3-1 start in the non-conference schedule, received three first-place votes and finished second overall in a recent NWC preseason coaches poll.
Their stiffest test should come Saturday against Lewis & Clark, which is off to a 3-2 start and pegged for a third-place finish by the preseason poll.
The Whitman women have stumbled a bit to start the season, winning once but dropping three decisions by a total of 10 points.
Their road doesn't get any easier this weekend. The George Fox women are ranked No. 3 nationally (NCAA DIII) while Lewis & Clark is No. 18.
After this weekend's games, both Whitman teams return to non-conference action before resuming NWC play in January.
Whitman, coming off a 15-11 season, is a relatively young squad, although it has three seniors in All-NWC point guard Jenele Peterson and two Wa-Hi grads, Jenn Keyes and Anna Forge, at the top of the roster.
Shiann Dreadfulwater, who played her first two seasons at Walla Walla Community College, gives Whitman another touch of experience.
Heather Munger, a 6-foot-4 junior post, has led George Fox to a 4-0 start this season. The Bruins pulled away late in two wins over Whitman last season.
Kristina Williams, a 5-foot-9 junior guard and the reigning NWC Player of the Year, leads Lewis & Clark, which takes a 5-0 record to Whitworth on Friday before coming to Walla Walla on Saturday.
Whitman dropped three close decisions to Lewis & Clark last season.
The last setback came in the first round of the NWC playoffs, when Whitman led by six points in the second half before Lewis & Clark rallied to win on its home floor.
In two regular season meetings, Lewis & Clark edged Whitman by three points in Walla Walla and by seven points in Portland.
Two seniors, 6-foot-2 guard Brandon Shaw and 6-foot-7 forward David Michaels, lead the Missionary men's squad, which is coming off its best season in more than two decades.
Whitman was 19-8 a year ago, falling one win short of a berth in the NCAA DIII national championship tourney.
Other key players include junior sharp-shooting wing Peter Clark and sophomore guard Josh Duckworth, last year's West Region Player of the Year.
Senior forward D.J. Wright, who played his first two seasons at Walla Walla Community College, is Whitman's second-leading to start the season.
Whitman has won its last three meetings with George Fox, counting two wins a year ago.
The Bruins, led by freshman guard A.J. Grant, brings a 1-3 early season record to Walla Walla on Friday.
Whitman split its two regular season games with Lewis & Clark last winter, winning at home but losing in Portland.
The two teams then met in the first round of the NWC playoffs, where Whitman rallied for a 79-76 victory.
Three guards, junior James Hollins and seniors PJ Taylor and Marcus Wells, pace Lewis & Clark.
The Pioneers picked up more firepower in 6-foot-6 Ross Erickson, a junior transfer from NCAA DI University of Hartford.