SPOKANE - Overcoming a 12-point deficit early in the second half, Whitman College ran its winning streak to six games with a 78-70 Northwest Conference women's basketball victory over Whitworth here Tuesday night.
Whitman, a winner in eight of its last 10 games, improved to 5-2 in the NWC and took sole possession of third place.
The Missionaries, 9-7 on the season, trailed 41-33 at halftime and slipped behind 52-40 four minutes into the second half.
From that point forward, however, the game belonged to a Whitman squad that took the lead for good at 60-58 and stayed in front for the last eight-plus minutes of the game.
The loss dropped Whitworth to 3-4 in conference and 7-9 on the season.
With Whitman leading 66-65 and less than four minutes to play, Whitworth started to foul and the Missionaries responded at the free-throw line, converting 12-of-14 opportunities to win going away.
Whitman, which entered the game shooting an NWC-best 74 percent from the line, made 18-of-21 freebies in the second half and finished the night at 79.3 percent (23-of-29).
Point guard Jenele Peterson, playing all 40 minutes, paced the Missionaries with 22 points and four assists. She was 6-of-12 from the floor and 10-of-12 at the line.
Wing Anna Forge came off the bench for her best game of the season. She combined a season-high 14 points with nine rebounds, four assists and four steals. Guard Kelly Peterson added 15 points, drilling 3-of-6 3-point attempts and 4-of-6 free throws.
Whitman edged Whitworth 36-35 on the backboards and committed just seven turnovers, five fewer than the Pirates. The Missionaries also lead the conference in terms of fewest turnovers per game.
While knocking down its free throws in the second half, Whitman was also target from the floor, making 12-of-22 shots (54.5 percent). That included 3-of-6 tries from the 3-point line.
Whitworth posted a 55.2 field goal percentage in the first half but then cooled off in the second stanza, connecting on just 11-of-28 shots (39.3 percent). The Pirates were just 1-of-9 from long distance after intermission.
Trailing 52-40, Whitman clawed back into the contest on a 12-1 run that was capped by Jenele Peterson's 3-point play in the paint followed by a Forge strike from the 3-point line.
Two Forge free throws and two baskets by sophomore Sarah Anderegg gave Whitman a 58-56 lead at the midway point of the second half. After the Pirates pulled even at 58-all, Jenele Peterson made 3-of-4 free throws for a 61-58 Missionary advantage with eight minutes left.
After an offensive rebound by Mary Madden set the stage for a Kelly Peterson 3, Tiffani Traver scored inside off a Forge assist to extend Whitman's lead to 66-62 with five minutes on the clock.
Whitworth closed to within a point, but then started sending the Missionaries to the free-throw stripe, where Whitman scored its last 12 points.
Down 73-67 with a 1:30 left, Whitworth made a final run when Lexi Belcher completed a 3-point play inside. Whitman missed its next shot, but the Pirates turned the ball over with 49 seconds to play.
After Traver made two free throws, Forge picked off her fourth steal of the game to ice the victory.
Belcher led the Pirates with 26 points and nine rebounds. Kayla Johnson added 17 points while Guthrie pitched in nine.
Whitworth took charge to start the game, moving in front 15-8 after five minutes of play.
The Missionaries countered with eight straight points to lead by one at the 12:39 mark. After Kelly Peterson triggered the run with 3-point strike, Forge hit a jumper and Anderegg finished a 3-point play in the paint.
The Pirates regained a 19-16 edge, but Whitman surged again behind a Kelly Peterson free throw and two Forge buckets for a 21-19 lead.
After Jenele Peterson's layup with 8:10 left in the half knotted the game at 23, Whitworth ripped off seven straight points and stayed on top for the rest of the half.
Kelly Peterson's second three of the half trimmed Whitman's deficit to 30-28 with 4:24 left before intermission, and she knocked down two free throws with 2:16 left to make 35-32.
The Pirates finished the half on a 6-1 run lead by eight at the break.
Whitman travels to Salem on Saturday for a 4 p.m. game against Willamette.
Whitman 78, Whitworth 70
WHITMAN (78) - K. Peterson 4-10 4-6 15, Madden 2-5 0-0 4, Whte 2-6 0-0 4, J. Peterson 6-12 10-12 22, Keyes 2-7 0-0 5, Traver 2-5 3-4 7, Lovelace 0-1 0-0 0, Anderegg 3-5 1-1 7, Forge 4-8 5-6 14. Totals 25-59 23-29 78.
WHITWORTH (70) - Lyons 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 8-14 0-0 17, Belcher 9-17 7-8 26, Picha 2-6 2-2 6, Guthrie 4-8 0-0 9, Cacchilo 0-1 0-0 0, Knutsen 0-0 0-0 0, Lahue 0-1 3-6 3, Fleming 2-5 0-0 4, LaMoreaux 1-1 1-1 3, Shelton-Sharp 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 27-57 13-17 70
Halftime - Whitworth 41, Whitman 33. 3-point goals - Whitman 5-16 (K. Peterson 3-6, J. Peterson 0-1, Keyes 1-6, Traver 0-2, Forge 1-1), Whitworgth 3-13 (Johnson 1-1, Belcher 1-3, Picha 0-1, Guthrie 1-4, Lahue 0-1, Fleming 0-1, Shelton-Sharp 0-3). Total fouls - Whitworth 21, Whitman 14. Fouled out - Whitworth (Lyons). Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - Whitman 36 (Forge 9), Whitworth 35 (Belcher 9). Turnovers - Whitworth 12, Whitman 7. Assists - Whitman 14 (J. Peterson 4, Forge 4), Whitworth 9 (Belcher 3).