WALLA WALLA - The Whitman College women's basketball team is in Portland tonight to face Lewis & Clark in one of two Northwest Conference playoff semifinal games. The game starts at 7 p.m. in Pamplin Sports Center on the Lewis & Clark campus.
Fans not able to see No. 3 Whitman (12-4 NWC, 16-9) battle No. 2 Lewis & Clark (14-2 NWC, 23-2) in person can follow the action online via a live video webcast on Whitman's athletic website, whitman.edu/content/athletics.
A victory tonight means Whitman advances to play in Saturday night's playoff championship tilt - the winner of which get the NWC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III national championship field.
Today's other semifinal has No. 4 Puget Sound (9-7 NWC, 13-12) playing No. 1 George Fox (16-0 NWC, 25-0) in Newberg, Ore.
If Whitman wins today and Puget Sound upsets George Fox, Whitman will host Saturday night's championship game.
Victories by Whitman and George Fox today means that Saturday's playoff finale will take place in Newberg.
Lewis & Clark, No. 7 in the NCAA DIII ranks, earned its No. 2 playoff seed by waltzing through a season marred only by a pair of losses to undefeated conference champ George Fox.
The Pioneers dodged a few bullets, however, in edging Whitman for an improbable 71-69 overtime victory in Portland in late January. Lewis & Clark managed to score five points in the last 11 seconds of regulation to force the game into overtime.
Lewis & Clark then tallied the first four points in overtime and never trailed. The gut-wrenching loss for Whitman snapped its seven-game winning streak and at the time kept the Missionaries from pulling into a second-place tie with Lewis & Clark.
Whitman senior Jenele Peterson played all 45 minutes in that game, combining 21 points with eight assists. Meghan White added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
Other solid contributions came from Mary Madden (12 points, 3 assists) and Kelly Peterson (9 points, 5 assists) and Tiffani Traver (9 points, 6 rebounds).
Neva Hauser scored 21 points for Lewis & Clark, which also got the bulk of its scoring from five players. Kristina Williams added 13 points and Megan Spence had 10.
In this season's first meeting between the two schools, which was played early last December in Walla Walla, Whitman jumped all over the Pioneers in racing away to a 21-10 lead after the first 14-plus minutes of play.
But Lewis & Clark rallied late in the first half to shrink its deficit to 25-23 by intermission. The Pioneers then made 17-of-25 in the second half while pulling away for a 64-54 victory. Williams paced the victory with 26 points and 10 rebounds while Kelly Peterson led Whitman with 14 points and four boards.
Whitman earned the No. 3 playoff seed by virtue of a strong finish that included 13 wins in last 15 games. For the season, Jenele Peterson led Whitman in scoring (13.8 points per game) and topped the NWC in assists (4.6 a game). White paced the Missionaries in rebounds, averaging 7.6 per game.
Kelly Peterson, along with Madden, Traver, Sarah Anderegg and Anna Forge and Jenn Keyes, are part of a deep Whitman rotation. Forge and White are among the NWC leaders in blocked shots.