WALLA WALLA — The Whitman women’s basketball team finishes the regular season on the road this Friday and Saturday with a chance to secure a home Northwest Conference Tournament game for the first time in the program’s history.
If the Missionaries win both games, at Willamette Friday and Linfield Saturday — and the chips fall favorably — they could find themselves as conference champs.
Heading into the weekend, Whitman (11-3) sits in second place, a game-and-a-half behind Lewis & Clark (13-2) in conference, and one game ahead of third place George Fox (10-4), and the Missionaries have the edge in the tie-breaker against both teams.
L&C, with a victory already behind them this week at Puget Sound, plays its finale at Pacific Lutheran (3-11).
George Fox finishes at Pacific Lutheran Friday and Puget Sound (6-8) Saturday.
A win Friday night at Willamette would guarantee the Missionaries of at least a share of second place and a hosting of a first-round conference tournament game.
Whitman’s weekend foes, Willamette (2-11, 2-20 overall) and Linfield (1-12, 2-17), inhabit the bottom spots in the conference standings, but as Missionary head coach Michelle Ferenz said, “Both teams are better than their records indicate, and it is always tough playing on the road in the Northwest Conference.”
Earlier in the season, at home, Whitman bested Linfield 69-58 on a night where all five Missionary starters hit double figures, led by senior forward Mary Madden, who tallied 16, offsetting a huge night from Bearcat Katelyn Hensen, who shredded the nets for 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting.
Hensen enters this weekend at the conference’s fifth leading scorer (12.5 points per game), behind Whitman post Sarah Anderegg, who ranks third, averaging 13.7 points per contest, and the fourth leading rebounder (8.8 a game).
The Missionaries enjoyed one of their largest margin of victory this season, 31 points, at the expense of Willamette at Sherwood Center, 72-41.
Whitman shot 63 percent in the first half and Heather Johns led the way with 17 points as the Whits garnered their sixth conference win.
Anderegg still sits atop the conference in field-goal percentage (54 percent) as the team also ranks first (43 percent).
The Missionaries are also ranked No. 1 in scoring defense, giving up just 51.8 points per game, and in rebounding margin (plus-12.4).
Junior post Meghan White averages eight boards per game, fifth best in the conference. Johns averages six, and is second in the NWC in assists at 3.5.
Whitman has won seven of their last eight games and own a road record of 8-3.
Tip-off Friday at Willamette is 6 p.m., and Saturday at Linfield is 4 p.m.