SPOKANE — In a season-opening matchup of highly ranked teams, No. 11 Whitman hit enough key shots to come from behind and edge No. 5 St. Thomas (Minn.), 77-76, Friday at the Whit Classic hosted by Whitworth College.
It was the season opener for both teams and the game lived up to its billing, with both clubs hitting clutch shots down the stretch before the Missionaries made a stop on the final possession of the game, causing an errant shot as time ran out to seal the victory.
Whitman trailed by as many as 11 points with 6:37 remaining in the game but Tiffani Traver and Sarah Anderegg (22 points), both hit a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to seven. A trey by Traver moments later made the advantage only four.
The Tommies converted two free throws but Heather Johns, who led all scorers with 27, banked in a layup high off the glass. When St. Thomas pushed the lead out to five, Traver (15 points) drained another three to cut the deficit to just two with 4:05 left in regulation.
Katie Stone hit a three for the Tommies to stretch the lead back to five, but Traver connected from beyond the arc again to make it a 69-67 game with 3:26 showing on the clock. Anderegg converted a layup to tie the game, only to see St. Thomas respond with a layup and another Stone trey to grab a five-point lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Undaunted, Whitman cut the lead back to one on consecutive jumpers in the lane by Johns and Anderegg. On the next possession, Johns drove right and hit a contested layup to give the Missionaries the lead, 75-74, with 49 seconds to go.
The Tommies’ Taylor Young was fouled and proceeded to drain two free throws to give St. Thomas the lead again. But with 20 seconds remaining, Anderegg was fouled driving to the basket. She sank two clutch free throws to give the Missionaries the lead for good.
St. Thomas came down the floor and was forced to take a timeout when it could not get an open shot. Then, off the in-bound pass and with time running out the Tommies were forced to take an off-balance shot that did not hit the rim as the Missionaries swarmed to the ball.
“It was a great game,” Whitman coach Michelle Ferenz said. “They hit big shots. We hit big shots. It was a lot of fun and a great game to be a part of. We found out a lot about ourselves and what we need to work on.”
Whitman shot a blistering 58.1 percent for the game — 65.2 percent in the second half. They also went to the foul line twice as much as St. Thomas, hitting 23 of 32. The Tommies were a perfect 15 of 15.
The Missionaries are back in action on Nov. 22 when they face Redlands in Santa Cruz, Calif. Tip-off is at 3 p.m.